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Learn F.A.S.T. to spot signs of stroke


May is American Stroke Month. One out of six people will suffer from a stroke in his or her lifetime. Stroke is also the leading cause of disabilities in the U.S., yet one in three Americans can't recognize the signs of a stroke. Acting quickly to get help at the first sign of stroke can reduce the amount of brain damage that the stroke can cause. The acronym F.A.S.T. is an easy and quick way to remember the sudden warning signs.

F: Face drooping. If one side of the face is drooping or numb, the person may be having a stroke. Ask them to smileif it is uneven, this is a clear sign.

A: Arm weakness. Often one arm will go weak or numb during a stroke. Ask the person to raise both armsif one arm begins to drift downward, they may be suffering from a stroke.

S: Speech difficulty. Slurred speech is another sign of a stroke. If the person is hard to understand or unable to speak, ask them to repeat a simple sentence like "The sky is blue." and see if they can repeat it correctly.

T: Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away with time, call 911 and take them to a hospital immediately.

Other warning signs of stroke may include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding what is going on.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

It is also important to note the time when the symptoms first appear. Some treatments for stroke can only work when they are given within the first three hours after the stroke occurs, so knowing when the symptoms first started can be crucial.

There are ways to lower your risk of stroke. Leading a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight can help lower your chances of having a stroke.

The Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute (CMHVI) is a state-of-the-art facility that uses evidence-based clinical practice, sound research and tested care principles to support excellent clinical outcomes. CMHVI is committed to providing continuous quality care to the communities we serve, our patients and their families. To learn more visit