Think F.A.S.T.: Recognizing a Stroke

More than 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke every year. Out of these cases, approximately 140,000 Americans won’t survive. -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A stroke is a medical emergency occurring when blood flow to the brain stops. There are two ways this can happen. The most common is an ischemic stroke, which makes up about 87% of strokes¹. This is when a blood clot blocks a vessel in the brain causing poor oxygenation. The other is a hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by a broken blood vessel bleeding in the brain.

Image result for hemorrhagic stroke vs ischemic stroke

Many common medical conditions put an individual at risk for a stroke. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke². There are often no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, so it is important to have your BP checked regularly. Other risk factors include obesity, tobacco use, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, sickle cell, and family history of stroke².

“Time is brain”… the longer the brain is without adequate levels of oxygen, the more damaging a stroke will be³. As time passes, more and more brain cells die. Early recognition may help avoid of minimize permanent damage!


An easy way to remember the signs of a stroke is to remember “F.A.S.T.”  The ‘F’ stands for facial drooping; sudden numbness or weakness of the face is a common sign an individual may be having a stroke. Typically one side of the face will droop down and an individual will have a crooked smile. The ‘A’ stands for arm weakness, which is another common sign of a stroke- there may also be numbness or paralysis. The ‘S’ stands for sudden confusion or trouble speaking. Finally, the ‘T’ stands for time- remember “time is brain”!

If you think that you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.

  1. Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2017 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135:e229-e445.

About Ryan Barnes, RN, BSN

Cardiac Surgery RN from Maryland, DNP student, and Army nurse.

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