Warning Signs of Stroke

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes, but few people know the signs. Use of the acronym BE FAST to help remember the signs of stroke, and actions to take if someone near you is experiencing them.

Use B.E. F.A.S.T. to Recognize Stroke Symptoms

  • Balance: Balance off
  • Eyes: Blurry vision
  • Face: Face droops
  • Arms: Arm drifts downward
  • Speech: Words slurred
  • Time: Symptoms, call 9-1-1

Warning Signs of Stroke

Dr. Cathy Sila, Director of the Stroke Center at UH Cleveland Medical Center, discusses the warning signs of stroke.

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If you see even just one of these symptoms, even if it goes away, do not wait, call 911 immediately, this person may be having a stroke.

1: WALK
Is their balance off?

  • Are they able to stand straight and tall?
  • Or do they slump to one side?
  • Do they appear to have lost strength on one side of their body?
  • Are they leaning to one side when they try to walk?
  • Are they veering off to one side?
  • Are they dragging the foot on the side they are leaning toward?
  • Can they tell you whether they can feel the side that they are leaning toward?

2: TALK
Is their speech slurred or face droopy?

  • Are they having problems speaking?
  • Are they having problems “getting their words out?”
  • Do they sound like they have some thing in their mouth when they speak?
  • Are they saying the appropriate words (do their words make sense) when they speak?
  • Does one side of their mouth droop down?

3: REACH
Is one side weak or numb?

  • Ask the person to raise both their arms up together. Does one arm begin to fall down?
  • Ask the person to squeeze your fingers with each hand; is one hand weaker than the other?
  • If you ask the person to try to hold something like a pen, can they do it without any difficulty?
  • Can the person feel you touch them on their arm? Lightly touch them on the skin of both arms, and ask them if the feeling is the same on each.

4: SEE
Is their vision all or partly lost?

  • Ask the person about their vision. Do they normally wear glasses or contact lenses, or do they normally not use either of these?
  • Ask the person to try to describe any changes in their vision.
  • Is their vision clear?
  • Is it blurry?
  • Can they see everything in their field of vision?
  • Does the person see everything or just part of the visual field?
  • Does the person see double?

5: FEEL
Is their headache severe?

  • Do they have a headache? On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst, ask them to rate their headache.
  • Do they normally have headaches? If so, is this headache any different from their usual headache?
  • Does this feel like the worst headache of their life?
  • Does light bother or hurt their eyes?
  • Does a sound or loud noise make the headache worse?
  • Don’t wait. Call 911!

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