How to easily recognise a stroke

It is important to remember that, no matter what, a stroke is always a medical emergency. If you think someone is having a stroke you should call 000 immediately.

The easiest way to recognise a stroke is to use the acronym FAST. This is easy to remember – just act FAST to minimise the damage the stroke can do. FAST stands for:

  • Face – check the person’s face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arm – can they lift both arms normally?
  • Speech – is their speech slurred? Can they understand what you are saying?
  • Time – time is critical when dealing with a stroke. If you notice any of these signs, you need to call 000 and ask for an ambulance as soon as possible, no matter how long the symptoms last.

Facial weakness or ‘droopiness’ on one side, arm weakness and slurred speech are the most common signs of a stroke, however, there are many other possible symptoms. A stroke may be accompanied by one or a combination of the following other symptoms:

  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on one or both sides of the body
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • An unexplained fall
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden blurred or decreased vision, or loss of vision, in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sudden and severe headache, or an unexplained change in the pattern of headaches.

Any or all of these symptoms can last for just a few seconds or up to 24 hours before disappearing. No matter how long the symptoms last, or how severe they are, you should call 000 as soon as you notice them. The FASTer you act, the more likely you are to save a life.

Find out more about strokes at the Stroke Foundation website