BE FAST: Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke

May 24, 2024

BE FAST: Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke

May is Stroke Awareness Month, a crucial time to educate ourselves and our loved ones about the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Strokes are a leading cause of disability and death worldwide, but many people are unaware of how to recognize and respond to them. Quick action can mean the difference between recovery and severe impairment or even death. The BE FAST acronym is a simple and effective tool to help remember the warning signs of a stroke and take immediate action.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die within minutes. There are two main types of strokes:

  1. Ischemic Stroke: Caused by a blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the brain.
  2. Hemorrhagic Stroke: Caused by a blood vessel in the brain bursting and leading to bleeding in or around the brain.

A third, less severe type is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke, which is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke.

BE FAST: The Key to Early Detection

Recognizing a stroke quickly and getting immediate medical help can save lives and improve recovery outcomes. The BE FAST acronym stands for Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech, and Time, highlighting the critical symptoms to watch for:

  1. B – Balance: Sudden loss of balance or coordination. If the person is stumbling, dizzy, or has trouble walking, this could be a sign of a stroke.
  2. E – Eyes: Sudden vision changes. Look for blurred vision, double vision, or loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  3. F – Face: Facial drooping. Ask the person to smile. If one side of the face droops or feels numb, it may indicate a stroke.
  4. A – Arms: Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms. If one arm drifts downward or feels weak or numb, it could be a stroke.
  5. S – Speech: Speech difficulty. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. If their speech is slurred, strange, or they cannot speak, it’s a warning sign.
  6. T – Time: Time to call emergency services. If any of these symptoms are present, even if they go away, it’s crucial to call emergency services immediately. Time lost is brain function lost.

Acting Quickly: Why Time Matters

Every second counts when it comes to a stroke. The faster a person receives medical attention, the better their chances of recovery. Stroke treatments are most effective if administered within the first few hours of symptom onset. Immediate action can limit brain damage and increase the likelihood of a full recovery.

Reducing Your Risk

While some risk factors for stroke, such as age and family history, cannot be controlled, many lifestyle changes can reduce your risk:

  • Maintain a healthy diet: Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Manage chronic conditions: Keep conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol under control with the help of your healthcare provider.
  • Monitor your health: Regular check-ups with your doctor can help detect and manage risk factors.


Stroke Awareness Month is an opportunity to spread vital information about stroke recognition and prevention. By remembering the BE FAST acronym, you can help protect yourself and others from the devastating effects of a stroke. Educate your friends and family, and don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical help if you suspect a stroke. Together, we can improve outcomes and save lives.

Stay informed, stay healthy, and BE FAST!