‘BE FAST’: Understanding the signs of a stroke could help save a life

Remember the mnemonic aid “BE FAST" to be prepared in the event of a stroke.
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 12:06 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year, with 610,000 of those being first or new strokes.

The month of May is Stroke Awareness Month, and with an average of one in six cardiovascular deaths being caused by stroke, understanding the signs can be the difference between life and death for many.

Dr. James Sterling McKinney, medical director of the Novant Health Neurosciences Institute in the Coastal region, discussed why it is especially important to know the signs.

“The stroke belt is really the southeast part of the United States where there’s a highest penetrance and incidence of stroke in the U.S. and the highest mortality and morbidity associated with it. And we’re right at the heart of that in southeast North Carolina,” Dr. McKinney explains. “[It] has a little bit to do with access to health care, poor diets, cigarette smoking, and a lot of the risk factors that lead to increased risk for stroke and heart disease.”

The warning signs of a stroke are covered by remembering the mnemonic aid “BE FAST:”

  • B is for balance: Is the person suddenly having trouble with balance or coordination?
  • E is for eyes: Do they have blurred or double vision? Do they have a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes without pain?
  • F is for face drooping: Does one side of their face droop or feel numb? Asking the person to smile can help answer this question.
  • A is for arm weakness: Does the person have numb or weak-feeling arms? Ask them to raise both arms and watch if either drifts downward.
  • S is for speech difficulty: Is the person hard to understand or slurring their words? Asking them to repeat a simple sentence can help answer this.
  • T is for time: If someone is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
The warning signs of a stroke are covered by remembering the mnemonic aid “BE FAST"
The warning signs of a stroke are covered by remembering the mnemonic aid “BE FAST"(WECT)

“So they estimate about 2,000,000 neurons or brain cells die every minute that you have a large blood vessel that’s occluded,” Dr. McKinney adds in reference to timeliness. “And the faster we get those blood vessels open, the more likely you are to have a good outcome and return home.”

For more information, please visit the Novant Health website.