FAST Can Save Lives

March 01, 2016

The acronym F.A.S.T. stands for clues for assessing if someone is having a stroke. F stands for face: Does the face look uneven? Does one side droop down? Is it numb? Can the person smile? A stands for arm: Is one arm weak or numb? Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms. S stands for speech. Does their speech sound strange? Is the speech slurred? Can the person repeat a simple sentence? T stands for Time. With every second that passes, brain cells die. Call 911 at any sign of a stroke. Don’t wait to get help.

The symptoms of a stroke are usually described with the adjective “sudden.” If someone has “sudden” numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side; “sudden” confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech; “sudden” trouble seeing in one or both eyes; “sudden” trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination; or “sudden” severe headache with no cause, they could be having a stroke. The chances of survival and recovery are greatly increased when treatment is received quickly, especially within 3 hours.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that strokes are a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. Most people don’t realize that a stroke may not kill them, but can change lifestyle drastically! Consider “Uncle John”: He always thought that if he had a stroke, it would probably kill him. “If that’s the way I’ll go, so be it!” was his motto. What Uncle John did not realize was that the stroke he had did not kill him but led to the rest of his life lived out in a nursing home, unable to feed himself, walk or talk!   

You can reduce your chance of a stroke through lifestyle changes, recognizing symptoms and following your doctor’s advice:

  • Don’t ignore TIAs: About 10% of stokes are preceded by “temporary strokes” (transient ischemic attacks or TIAs.)  A TIA has many of the same symptoms of a stroke but is lasts a relatively short period of time, usually 24 hours of less.  TIAs may signal a problem that can lead to a disabling or fatal stroke. 
  • If you have diabetes, keep it under control.                    
  • High blood pressure is a primary cause of stroke. You can control this risk factor.  You need to measure your blood pressure and treat if it is high. 
  • Other lifestyles changes that can reduce the risk of stroke include: quitting smoking; increasing physical activity; eating a diet to lower blood cholesterol; avoiding excessive alcohol intake; losing weight; and getting checked for circulatory disorders. 

Respond immediately if someone shows the symptoms of a stroke.  Get medical help right away.   Quick immediate intervention results in increased odds for survival or recovery.  For free information on strokes, District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call QVHD, 203 248-4528 or request via email,