BE FAST: Know the signs of a stroke

[4 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • Stroke can happen at any time, regardless of gender or age. Learn how to spot early symptoms of a stroke.

  • One easy way to remember and recognize the signs of stroke is to use the B.E. F.A.S.T. acronym — Balance, Eyes, Face drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred speech and Time to call 911.

  • The Providence  Neuroscience Institute and telehealth program are helping stroke patients across the nation.

When it comes to strokes, fast care is vital to protecting your brain. The first step is recognizing the signs of stroke so you can get to the hospital quickly and safely. As part of National Stroke Awareness Month, learn about the types of strokes and how to spot a stroke when it happens.

Types of strokes

While many people think a stroke occurs in the heart because it is related to heart disease, it happens in the brain. During a stroke, a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked with a blood clot or it bursts. The brain then cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs.

There are two main types of strokes:

  • Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It happens when blood clots or plaque (fatty deposits related to high cholesterol) block blood flow to the brain.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke is when an artery in the brain breaks open.

Both types of strokes can cause disability and death if they aren’t treated quickly.

5 stroke symptoms

Both types of strokes also show the same symptoms. Recognizing the warning signs of stroke can help you save your own life or that of someone you love. The American Stroke Association recommends you remember the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T.

  • B = Balance – Is the person experiencing loss of balance suddenly? Are they having trouble walking?
  • E = Eyes – Is the person having blurry vision, trouble seeing, double vision or vision problems without any pain?
  • F = Face drooping – Does one side of the person’s face look lower than the other?
  • A = Arm weakness – Is the person experiencing weakness in one or both of their arms?
  • S = Slurring speech – Is it difficult to understand the person or are the having trouble speaking?
  • T = Time to call 911 – If any of the above is occurring, seek medical attention and call 911. Tell them you think it’s a stroke so the local hospital can prepare its team.

Other symptoms of a stroke can include confusion, severe headache or sudden numbness on one side of the body.

Fast stroke care matters

Each minute that the brain is deprived of blood flow, brain cells die. That’s why it is important to call 911 for a stroke. The ambulance can get you or a loved one to the hospital faster than you could drive, and paramedics can also alert the hospital stroke team. When you or a loved one arrives at the hospital, a neurologist and their team will be waiting to care for you.

Telestroke saves lives

We understand that time is important for stroke patients. The telestroke program at Providence makes it possible for all stroke patients to have access to timely diagnosis and treatments, even if their local hospital isn’t equipped to handle complicated stroke cases.

Through the telestroke service, Providence neurologists can connect with patients who may be having a stroke within two minutes through secure video calls. During the call, our neurologists will assess the patient’s condition, determine necessary treatment and then work with local providers who are with the patient to ensure they receive the right care as quickly as possible.

The telestroke program has been so successful that Providence has expanded it to other neurology services, including tele-EEG and tele-emergent neurology.

Stroke prevention

You can’t always prevent a stroke, but you can take steps to lower your risk, no matter your age or current health. We recommend that you:

1. Adopt a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet — which includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and small amounts of fish, poultry and dairy products — has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke by about 20%.

2. Exercise regularly. Exercise helps lower high blood pressure, which puts you at a higher risk for stroke. It can also help you control obesity and high cholesterol, which increase stroke risk.

3. Control your risk factors. The top risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, illegal drug abuse, an abnormal heart rhythm (such as atrial fibrillation) and damaged heart valves. You can control some of these risk factors, such as smoking, by not engaging in the activity. Your doctor can help you make lifestyle changes and find medicines that help control these risk factors.

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Stroke awareness series

This is part one of a two-part series promoting stroke awareness. In part two, an expert with the Providence Stroke and Cognitive Care Center will answer some of your questions related to stroke care.

Find a doctor

If you are looking for a neurologist, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory.

Download the Providence App

We’re with you, wherever you are. Make Providence’s app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records and more. Learn more and download the app. 

Related resources

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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