F.A.S.T. – The Stoke Recognition Test

Suffering a stroke can be a very scary experience for both those it directly effects as well as those around them. With the onset of National Stroke Awareness Month, we would like to share some information that can both help prevent as well as help recover from a Stroke in our new series.

According to a report by Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and are the leading cause of long-term disability in adults. 

Stroke implies a brain attack in which the vital blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain is cut off. There are 700,000 stroke survivors in the US over the age of 20. Stroke can happen to anyone at anytime. During a stroke, about 2 million brain cells die every minute which increases the risk of permanent brain damage, disability and even death. This is the reason that the symptoms of a stroke are recognized. Acting FAST to get medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities.

Few Americans know the signs and symptoms of a stroke.  Learning them could save the life of an elderly loved one. The fast test is as follows:

F= FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face drop?
A= ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downwards?
S= SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T= TIME If you observe any of these signs, either independently or together, you should call 911 immediately for help

There are some more signs and symptoms which are beyond FAST and one should be aware of these as well to better understand when a person is having a stroke.

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

What are the stroke risk factors that cannot be changed?

  • Age: Risk of stroke increases with age.
  • Gender: Men have a higher risk of getting heart disease than women except in older adults.
  • Genes or race: If either of your parents had a stroke, you are at higher risk. African-Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans also have a higher risk for heart problems.
  • Diseases: Cancer, chronic kidney disease, and some types of arthritis also increase the risk of stroke
  • Artery Disease: Weak areas in an artery wall or abnormal arteries and veins
  • Pregnancy: Stroke risk is high both during and in the weeks right after pregnancy

What are the stroke risk factors that you can change?
Some risk factors for stroke can be changed by taking the following steps:

  1. Quit smoking
  2. Control cholesterol/ high blood pressure/ diabetes through diet, exercise and medicines, if needed
  3. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  4. Maintain your weight by eating healthy foods, eating in moderation and joining a weight loss program, if need be
  5. Limit alcohol intake
  6. Avoid cocaine and other illegal drugs
  7. Have a good diet: The importance of good diet in controlling the stroke risk factors cannot be undermined. Good nutrition can be obtained from the following:
  • A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, beans and legumes
  • Low fat dairy products such as 1% milk and other low fat items
  • Avoid sodium (salt) and fats found in fried foods, processed foods, and baked goods.
  • Reduce the intake of animal products and foods that contain cream, cheese or eggs
  • Avoid food items containing saturated fats, partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats as these products are loaded with unhealthy fats.