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Jul 23, 2020

BE FAST - Stroke Detection and Prevention

Over 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year. About 140,000 of those cases are fatal, making up for 1 out of every 20 deaths in the United States.

The good news, however, is that strokes are treatable and preventable. The key is to spot the warning signs and take action as soon as possible. The sooner you can get help, the better the outcome will be.

The FAST acronym by the American Stroke Association has an incredibly helpful tool to help remember the most critical warning signs of a stroke.

However, experts like Dr. Lucas Elijovich, a vascular neurologist and specialist in stroke and neurocritical care, are educating their patients on an update to the traditional FAST acronym. Let's see why.

Be Fast Stroke Acronym

Spotting a Stroke: BE FAST

While the original FAST acronym covered the primary stroke symptoms, it failed to address less common yet significant signs of a stroke. According to Dr. Elijovich, "Sudden imbalance or disturbances of vision including loss of vision or double vision are common symptoms of stroke that require immediate medical attention."

That’s why at Semmes Murphey Clinic, we highly recommend the new BE FAST acronym. Read below to see what it means:

  • Balance: Is there a sudden dizziness or a loss of balance?
  • Eyes: Is there any trouble seeing out of one or both eyes? This could be in the form of double vision or blurriness.
  • Face: Do the facial muscles seem weak or drooping on one side when smiling?
  • Arms: When raising both arms, does one arm drift below the other? This could result from either numbness or weakness in general.
  • Speech: Is the speech slurred, weak, or hard to understand? Is there an inability to repeat simple phrases?
  • Time: If you notice one or more of the above warning signs, then it’s time to call 911 with no delays.

That last step can’t be stressed enough. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they wait for the symptoms to go away instead of calling for help right away. Don’t repeat that mistake. Each minute wasted greatly increases the risk of brain damage.

Stroke Risk Factors

Some people are naturally at a higher risk of a stroke than others. Some of those risk factors are permanent, whereas others can be changed. These changeable risk factors include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, and drug abuse.

The Most Important Stroke Risk Factor You Can Change

While there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk of a stroke, there’s one factor that’s extremely important but also changeable: high blood pressure.

According to Dr. Elijovich, high blood pressure is the most important, modifiable stroke risk factor.

He explains that most people with high blood pressure typically experience a mild elevation and don’t feel bad. However, as science shows us, prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension over a lifetime greatly increases the risk of a stroke. That’s why many experts call hypertension a silent killer.

There are many ways you can control hypertension, including lifestyle changes, exercise, and taking medications prescribed by your physician.

Lastly, Dr. Elijovich recommends exercise as a significant starting point because it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of stroke. The more you enjoy an activity, the more relaxed and free of stress you’ll be. That’s the key to keeping blood pressure in check.

With seven locations and over a hundred years of experience, Semmes Murphey Clinic is a leader in the development of technology and procedures that improve the quality of care for patients with neurological and spine disorders. We have helped countless patients recover from strokes, reduce their future risk, and lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

To learn more about strokes from our team of experts, please read our extensive online guide that covers the symptoms, treatment options, and prevention strategies in detail.