Think someone is having a stroke? Act F.A.S.T.

April 30, 2015 Providence Health Team

Stroke is the number-one cause of adult disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Knowing the signs of a stroke and acting quickly could save the life of someone you love.

If you suspect someone is having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. with these easy-to-remember steps.

Spot a stroke F-A-S-T.


F – Face: Is one side of the face drooping? Ask the person to smile and look for a lopsided grin.
A – Arms: Does one arm seem weaker than the other? Ask the person to lift their arms over their head and look to see if one arm is drifting downward.
S – Speech: Is their speech slow or slurred? Find out by asking them to repeat a simple phrase.
T – Time: If any of the above signs are present, call 911 immediately. Note the time when symptoms began.

It’s critical to get medical attention right away if you or someone you know is having a stroke. Acting quickly can minimize damage to the brain and reduce the risk of long-term injury.

What is a stroke?

Blood vessels carry oxygen and essential nutrients to the brain. When one of these vessels ruptures or becomes blocked by a clot, a stroke occurs. During a stroke, the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen and consequently, brain cells die.

There are two types of stroke: ischemic (when a clot causes a blockage and inhibits blood flow and oxygen to the brain) and hemorrhagic (when a blood vessel bursts and prevents blood flow to the brain). A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is caused by a temporary clot. This is also known as a “mini stroke.”

About 85 percent of strokes are ischemic, or caused by a clot. Medical treatment is available to help dissolve the clot and may increase the chance of recovery. However, treatment must be given within three to four hours of the first signs of a stroke. That is why it’s important to seek help right away.

Other symptoms you should know

Know the warning signs of a stroke. Remember to act F.A.S.T. if you suspect a stroke. These additional symptoms may also suggest a stroke.

  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sudden severe headache with no apparent cause
  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the legs
  • Sudden confusion
  • Sudden trouble with vision in one or both eyes

If any of these symptoms is present, call 911 and get medical attention immediately.

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