There’s a reason doctors say “time is brain.”
Everything about a stroke demands speed. The symptoms of stroke are abrupt, the diagnosis must be prompt, and the treatment must be immediate. For every minute a stroke is untreated, a person can lose around 1.9 million neurons, according to the National Stroke Association.
“We know ‘time is brain,’” says Carolyn Brockington, MD, a neurologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “That means that the longer the brain isn’t getting enough blood flow, the more likely there’s going to be permanent injury.”
In a 2010 study of more than 3,600 stroke patients, researchers found that the odds of a favorable outcome increased as the time between stroke onset and medical treatment decreased. Furthermore, the longer treatment for stroke was delayed, the lower the chance of survival.
F-A-S-T: What Does It Stand For?
Perhaps no acronym is more fitting for stroke detection and treatment than F-A-S-T. This acronym can help remind you to “act fast” when a stroke is happening—to you, a loved one, or even a stranger on the street.
F is for Face: A classic stroke symptom is a drooping face, usually only affecting one side. The person may be unable to smile or show other facial expressions as usual.
A is for Arms: Weakness in one or both arms may indicate a stroke. If the person is drooping an arm or unable to lift it, it may be a stroke.
S is for Speech: Someone having a stroke may have garbled speech that almost sounds like they’re intoxicated. They may struggle to communicate, or to understand your words. You can ask the person to repeat a simple phrase; if they are unable to repeat it clearly, they might be having a stroke.
T is for Time: Once you’ve noticed drooping face, weak arms, and garbled speech, it’s time to take action quickly. “Time is so important with the brain so we want people to know: dial 911,” says Dr. Brockington. “That means it’s an emergency situation [and] they’ll be taken to the closest stroke center for rapid treatment.” (Find out why calling 911 is so important for stroke treatment.)
Of course, the best treatment for stroke is preventing one from happening in the first place, which means making lifestyle choices that keep your blood vessels strong and healthy. Here are ways to lower blood pressure naturally, and learn more lifestyle tweaks for a healthy heart.
Dr. Brockington is a neurologist and director of the Stroke Center at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City.
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The symptoms of stroke are sudden, so
they begin over seconds to minutes.
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We know time is brain.
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And that means that the longer the brain
isn't getting enough blood flow,
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the more likely there's
gonna be permanent injury.
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So we want people to act fast.
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So if you think of the word F-A-S-T,
F is for Face.
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If you look at somebody,
or even yourself, and
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suddenly your face is drooping,
you try to smile and
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you see that it's not the way that it
should be, that could be a stroke.
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A is for Arms.
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You ask them to outstretch their arms.
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If they start drooping or they can't even
lift their arm and it happened suddenly,
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maybe they're having a stroke.
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S is for speech.
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Speech goes for not only somebody who
gargles, so [SOUND] almost sounding like
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they're drunk, but
also someone difficulty communicating.
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Maybe they don't understand
what you're saying to them or
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they can't express themselves.
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So sudden speech disturbance.
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And then T is for time.
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We say time is so important with the
brain, so we want people to know dial 911.
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That means that's an emergent situation.
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They'll be taken to the closest
stroke center for rapid treatment.
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F-A-S-T, remember to act fast.
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The brain doesn't allow for a lot of time
before it's really permanently injured.
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So we want people to realize what are the
symptoms of stroke and then what to do.
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You need to call 911 immediately in order
to go to the closest emergency room.
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Act FAST. Centennial, CO: National Stroke Association. (Accessed on January 20, 2021 at http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/recognizing-stroke/act-fast.)
Lees KR, Bluhmki E, von Kummer R, Brott TG, Toni D, Grotta JC, et al. Time to treatment with intravenous alteplase and outcome in stroke: an updated pooled analysis of ECASS, ATLANTIS, NINDS, and EPITHET trials.Signs and symptoms of stroke. Centennial, CO: National Stroke Association. (Accessed on May 16, 2018 at http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/recognizing-stroke/signs-and-symptoms-stroke.)