Recognise signs of stroke and act FAST

Date published: 05 September 2019

Stroke is a common cause of death and disability. It happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off and brain cells are damaged or die. You should ‘act FAST’ and call 999 if you think someone is having a stroke. It could save their life.

Signs and symptoms

If someone has a stroke, knowing the signs and symptoms and acting FAST can:

  • improve their chances of survival
  • reduce the level of disability that results from a stroke

The most common symptoms to look out for are blurred vision, slurred speech or muscle weakness when otherwise feeling well.

Check for the following:

  • face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
  • speech – is their speech slurred?
  • time – time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs

A full-blown stroke could include:

  • numbness or weakness in face, arm, hand or leg on just one side of the body
  • confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding what someone is saying
  • difficulty swallowing
  • sudden dimness, blurring or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • trouble walking and dizziness
  • loss of balance or co-ordination
  • severe headache, sudden vomiting or unconsciousness

With a stroke it's important to act immediately, as early treatment is vital. You should either:

  • dial 999
  • or go to a hospital Accident and Emergency department

When 999 is called they will be brought by ambulance to the nearest acute stroke centre.

You can find further information on this page:

Preventing strokes

Your chances of having a stroke reduce if you understand the risks and take action to prevent a stroke happening.

You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by:

  • knowing and managing your personal risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, an irregular heartbeat (for example, atrial fibrillation) and high blood cholesterol
  • exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight
  • reducing the amount of alcohol you drink
  • stopping smoking

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