First aid tip: Recognising a stroke – the FAST test

On average, one person every 40 seconds has a stroke in the United States [1]. Early medical treatment can significantly improve the outcome of a stroke, therefore being able to recognise the signs & symptoms is incredibly important.

What is a stroke?

A stroke (or ‘CVA’ – cerebrovascular accident) is a problem with the blood supply to the brain. The brain has a large and complex system of arteries and veins supplying it with blood.

Broadly, there are two types of stroke:

Ischemic stroke: A clot blocks an artery in the brain causing death of brain tissue.

Hemorrhagic stroke: An artery in the brain ruptures causing bleeding. 

The most common type of stroke is ischemic stroke which accounts for approximately 85% of strokes. The only way to tell the difference between an ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke is a brain scan (CT scan). 

Recognising a stroke

If you suspect a stroke, there is a simple test you can use. The FAST test:

Face: Does the person have any facial weakness? Can they smile evenly? Does one side of their face appear to droop?

Arms: Can the person raise both arms?

Speech: Can the person speak clearly? Is their speech slurred? 

Time: Time to call an ambulance if the person fails any of the above tests.

Video: How to recognise a stroke using the FAST test


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