Strokes and BE FAST

I’m sure you would agree – it’s a bummer getting older. Suddenly we start having various ailments – some minor and others severe. It dawns us on we are no longer invincible.

No One Ever Wants to Experience a Stroke

Not only because we may die from one but if we don’t die, we may suffer from some type of permanent disability. So, it’s crucial for us and our families to know as much about Strokes and their warning signs as we can.

Here is information from the American Stroke Association.

  • Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death here in the United States.
  • Each year about 795,000 people have a stroke. 610,000 have one for the first time. The other 185,000 have subsequent ones.
  • Annually about 130,000 people die from strokes.
  • For those who live, there is the risk of some form of disability.

There are 2 different types of strokes.

  • The first is caused by a blood clot in the brain. This obstructs the flow of blood and is called an Ischemic Stroke.
  • The second is from a blood vessel bursting. This prevents the flow of blood to parts of the brain. It is called a Hemorrhagic Stroke.

When the blood flow is obstructed or stopped entirely, the brain cells in the affected area don’t receive the blood they need and start to die. That causes paralysis or, in severe cases, death.

Certain people have a warning sign that they may be susceptible to have a stroke in the future. They experience what is called a transient ischemic attack. Here a blood vessel is temporarily blocked or is not blocked completely. Then the blood starts flowing normally again.

Those who experience these transient ischemic attacks should let their doctors know about them.

Strokes can occur at any age. A third of the people who have strokes are over 55. The rest are in younger people. You may recall the actress, Patricia Neal. (She was from Knoxville. The Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center here in Knoxville is named for her.) While pregnant at age 39 in 1965, she experienced three massive strokes.

Here are risk factors which can lead to strokes:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • High Cholesterol
  • Overweight/Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poor Diet
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Certain Medications

Members in some families are more prone to having strokes.

Since they outnumber men, women are more likely to have strokes. African Americans and Hispanics have strokes more frequently than other ethnic groups. They are more common in African Americans with Sickle Cell Anemia.

After age 55, the chances for a person to have a stroke double every 10 years.

The faster a person starts treatment for a stroke, the less damaging the stroke will be. So, a key is for people to recognize the early warning signs that stroke is starting or has occurred. People treated within the first 3 to 4 1/2 hours have the best chance of experiencing minimal damage.


Remember the acronym, “BE FAST.”

  • B — BALANCE: A sudden loss of balance or coordination, such as not being able to walk a straight line or touch a finger to the nose.
  • E — EYES: Sudden vision changes, such as double vision or blindness in one eye.
  • F — FACE DROOPING: Droopiness or numbness on one side of the face, such as an uneven smile.
  • A — ARM WEAKNESS: Weakness in one arm, such as not being able to raise both arms.
  • S — SPEECH DIFFICULTY: Slurred speech or speech that is difficult to understand.
  • T — TIME TO CALL 911: If any of the above symptoms are present, it’s important to call emergency responders or go to the ER right away, even if symptoms seem to disappear. Be sure to record the time when symptoms started.

Remember – starting treatment for a person experiencing a stroke in the first 3 to 4 ½ hours is critical to minimize the effect it will have. If you are experiencing any of these yourself, call 911 or ask someone to call for you. If you notice someone you’re with experience some or all of the “BE FAST” signs, call for help for them or get them to the Emergency Room.

Several years ago, you may have seen something indicating you should give a baby aspirin to a person you thought may be experiencing a stroke. That is no longer recommended. The reason is an aspirin slows the clotting of the blood. You can’t be sure what is causing the stroke. While an aspirin may be good for a person experiencing a stroke cause by a blood clot, it would be harmful to a person experiencing a stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel.

If you call 911, follow the advice the medical professionals give you.

Always Keep in the Back of Your Mind . . .

. . . the quicker a person experiencing a stroke is treated the less damage there will be from it. So, watch for the signs. If you see a person with one or more of them, call 911 or get them to the emergency room as soon as possible.

You never know who it may be – a relative or friend or even a total stranger you see in a restaurant or other public place. They will be grateful for the help you give them.