Respond to Stroke Symptoms F.A.S.T.

Knowing the warning signs of a stroke is critical to minimizing damage to the brain from this potentially deadly, disabling medical emergency. For every minute your brain goes without oxygen, you lose about 1.9 million neurons, says the National Institutes of Health. This translates to lost ability to speak, move, remember and think clearly. So seeking treatment immediately at the first signs of stroke may preserve your quality and length of life.

“A cardinal feature of a stroke is its suddenness of onset,” says neurointerventionalist John Terry, MD, Neurocritical Care Medical Director, Miami Valley Hospital. He explains more in “How can I tell if a stroke is occurring?”

Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

How can I tell if a stroke is occurring?

The term or word stroke comes from a Greek root which means “a strike or a blow.” A cardinal feature of a stroke is its suddenness of onset. So these symptoms don't gradually come on, they usually come on right away as soon as the problem occurs. And there are several symptoms that are very commonly seen amongst most strokes. Most strokes have some element of weakness to them. And weakness is distributed in a way that it typically involves one half of the body or the other, such as the right or left side. That can be associated with numbness or changes in sensations. While slurred speech is very common, visual problems are common as well and they may include an inability to see to one side or another as well as double vision.


Stroke warning signs include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs, especially on one side
  • Sudden confusion
  • Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness and loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache, with no apparent cause
  • Sudden trouble speaking or understanding
For every minute your brain goes without oxygen, you lose about 1.9 million neurons.

If you or someone close to you exhibits these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Remember to Think F.A.S.T.Respond to Stroke Symptoms F.A.S.T. - In Content

To help you recall the most common signs of stroke, think F.A.S.T.:

F — Face drooping — One side of the face is droopy or numb and the smile is uneven. A — Arm weakness — One arm feels weak or numb, and as you lift both arms, one will start to fall down. S — Speech difficulty — You may have slurred speech, difficulty with talking and trouble repeating sentences. T — Time to call 9-1-1 — The sooner you get to the hospital, the better your chances of fully recovering from a stroke. Note the time the first symptom occurred to help your medical team provide the best possible care.

This video gives you a F.A.S.T. way to identify stroke symptoms.


“If you have one of the three of those stroke symptoms identified, you have a roughly 70 percent chance of diagnosing a stroke in a loved one,” says neurointerventionalist Bryan Ludwig, MD, Stroke Neurology Chair, Premier Health Neuroscience Institute. Learn more as Dr. Ludwig discusses how to remember the warning signs of stroke using F.A.S.T.

Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What are the warning signs of stroke?

So the warning signs of stroke are fairly easy to remember and should be something that all of us know both in the public and in the medical community. The way I always teach people to remember this is the word fast, which is FAST. Four letters to remember. Each one of those letters helps you identify certain signs and symptoms of a stroke. F standing for face which is ask the person to smile or to move their facial muscles. If one side doesn't work, that's a strike against him or a warning sign for stroke. The next letter a, is for arms and you ask the person to raise their arms. If only one arm can raise or if one arm appears to be heavy or difficult for that person to raise, that's strike two or another stroke warning sign. The third letter in the word fast is S. And S stands for speech, it's as simple as asking a person to say a sentence. Try to avoid using the person’s name when asking them because sometimes they can still say their name when having stroke like symptoms, but if you ask them to repeat a sentence many folks will have difficulty doing that. And that’s your third warning sign. And that last letter T, which is, if you've identified these symptoms, even if you've identified one of the three letters we just talked about, you should think T. You think about calling 911 or take action is another way to use that key word. If you have one of the three of those stroke symptoms identified you have you have a roughly 70% chance of successfully diagnosing a stroke in someone or a loved one. If you have all three of those present you have over a 90% chance of being accurate in diagnosing stroke and that last letter is so critical which is take action or think about calling 911 right away.


Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the number one cause of disability. Your quick recognition of stroke and prompt action are critical to treatment and recovery for you or another person with stroke.

Small Steps: Learn How Stroke Affects the Brain.
Seeking medical attention quickly is the best way to minimize permanent damage.

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