A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Knowing the FAST symptoms of stroke, such as facial drooping and arm weakness, can save valuable time when treatment is critical. More recent acronyms also include two more symptoms to be aware of.

Knowing the symptoms of stroke and getting help quickly is vital.

In 2009, the United Kingdom’s Department of Health introduced the “Act FAST” campaign. Medical professionals created the acronym based on the three most common symptoms of stroke, which include:

  • facial weakness
  • arm weakness
  • slurred speech

This article examines what FAST stands for. It also considers the more recent acronyms that include more symptoms to look for.

An illustration depicting the acronym BE FAST.Share on Pinterest
Illustrated by Jason Hoffman, Design by Diego Sabogal

To quickly evaluate if a person is having a stroke, a person can use the following acronym:

  • F — facial drooping: People should ask the individual to smile to see if it is uneven. They can also ask:
    • Is one side of the face drooping more than the other?
    • Is one side of the face numb?
  • A — arm weakness: People should ask the individual to raise both arms. If they are unable to raise one arm, or it lowers more than the other, it is a symptom of stroke.
  • S — speech difficulty: If a person has slurred speech, it could mean they are having a stroke.
  • T — time to call 911: If someone shows signs of any of the above, people should call the emergency services.

According to a 2022 article, BE FAST is gaining popularity. It includes two more signs to watch out for:

  • B — balance: People should check whether the individual is having difficulty with their balance or coordination.
  • E — eyes: Stroke can affect a person’s vision, and cause:

The remainder of the acronym — FAST — remains the same as above.

Similarly to BE FAST, this also includes symptoms relating to a person’s balance and eyes:

  • F — face: Facial drooping or numbness on one side of the face in particular.
  • A — arm weakness: If the person is unable to raise one arm, or it lowers more than the other.
  • S — stability or steadiness on the feet: Lack of coordination, sudden dizziness, or difficulty walking are symptoms of stroke.
  • T — talking: This includes changes in speech, such as slurring or the inability to respond appropriately. People can ask the individual to repeat a simple sentence such as, “The dog is brown.”
  • E — eyes: This can include loss of vision in one or both eyes, double vision, or partial vision loss.
  • R — react: Call 911 if any of these symptoms are present. People should call even if the symptoms go away.

Other symptoms of stroke may appear in addition to the most common ones included in FAST, BE FAST, and FASTER.

Additional symptoms to evaluate when someone may be having a stroke include confusion or issues understanding speech and a severe headache without a known cause.

As a stroke interrupts the blood supply to the brain, it is important to receive help to restore blood flow quickly. Dead brain cells cannot revive, and acting quickly will help prevent brain cell death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals who arrive at the emergency department within 3 hours after their first symptoms often have fewer long-term effects 3 months poststroke.

Even if someone’s symptoms resolve, people should call the emergency services. They may have experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini stroke. This is a sign of a serious medical issue and needs immediate care.

According to a 2019 study conducted in the U.K, if an individual having a stroke receives thrombolytic therapy within 4.5 hours, it can have a positive impact.

In the study, however, only 5 out of 13 people interviewed recognized the symptoms of a stroke. They also perceived symptoms as less severe than they were or could not call emergency services at the moment.

The CDC also notes that in one survey, 93% of people knew that sudden numbness on one side was a symptom of stroke. However, only 38% of people knew all of the major symptoms of stroke and to call 911 if a person was experiencing a stroke.

The American Heart Association notes that males and females have similar symptoms of stroke, including:

  • facial drooping
  • arm weakness
  • speech difficulty
  • difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
  • balance and coordination difficulties

However, the signs of stroke in females can be subtle, which can result in treatment delays. Females can also experience:

According to the CDC, a person can help lower their risk of stroke by:

Learn more about stroke, including the different types.

A stroke is a serious medical emergency that occurs with interrupted blood flow to the brain. Brain cells quickly begin to die, and symptoms arise. Treating stroke fast is imperative to the best long-term outcome.

The FAST acronym helps individuals identify the main symptoms of stroke, which include facial drooping, arm weakness, and slurred speech. If any of these are present, it is time to call 911.

In recent years, the acronym has been updated and slightly modified. It is now BE FAST or FASTER and includes symptoms regarding vision and balance.