In the United States, strokes happen every 40 seconds, and, according to the CDC, someone dies of a one every four minutes. The American Stroke Association identifies five unique types of stroke, but all of them share a few common factors.
Strokes take place when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. This is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention. In fact, if a person is experiencing a stroke, they have only a four and a half hour window before irreversible damage is caused to the brain.
Because time is of the essence in these emergency situations, the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T. is used to help identify which symptoms you should look for before sending someone to the hospital. Here’s what you should keep an eye out for in order to spot a stroke and save a life.
B — Balance
Someone struggling to stand or walk can be a warning sign of a stroke. This symptom can also present as dizziness and loss of coordination. You can check for balance by asking someone you suspect might be having a stroke to stand still or walk in a straight line.
E — Eyes and Visual Disturbances
Having difficulty seeing can be a symptom of a possible stroke. This warning sign can affect either one or both eyes. While vision loss is one possibility, blurriness and spotting also qualify as visual disturbances and should be considered. To assess this symptom, you can ask someone the number of fingers you are holding up or to follow your finger with their eye.
F — Face Drooping
Perhaps one of the more commonly known stroke symptoms, face dropping offers a clear visual cue. When someone loses control over part of their face, it appears to droop compared to the rest of the face. A sensation of numbness is also a stroke indicator. By asking someone to smile, you can assess if their face muscles are still in working condition.
A — Arm Weakness
Another telltale sign of stroke comes from the arms. Similar to the face symptoms, arms that are tingling, weak, or numb can indicate that a stroke is happening. If you notice one arm drifting downward, this is a sign to seek help. You can ask someone to raise both arms to further test for this symptom.
S — Speech Difficulty
If it’s difficult to converse or understand someone who you suspect is experiencing a stroke, this is further confirmation that you should seek help. For this symptom, you’ll be able to hear slurred syllables in what they’re saying. Engaging in a conversation will help you identify any speech disturbances.
T — Time
Time is the last part of B.E. F.A.S.T. for a reason. First — it is a reminder that acting quickly is absolutely critical in cases of stroke. Secondly, if you have gone through the rest of the acronym and identified any of the symptoms listed, then it is time to call 911.
The person you are assisting does NOT need to fit all criteria, in fact just one is enough for them to seek medical attention. Be sure to tell the operator you suspect a stroke so they understand the urgency. It is better to act out of caution in these situations.