Act FAST if You Suspect a Friend or Loved One Is Having a Stroke

Stroke is one of the most common cardiovascular events, but if you act FAST when you think someone might be suffering from a stroke, you could potentially save a life and improve their quality of life after the fact.

When you or a loved one are experiencing a stroke, every second counts. While strokes are incredibly common, too many people don’t understand the signs and symptoms associated with a stroke. Read on to learn how quickly identifying and treating a stroke can save someone’s life and improve their chances of recovery.

What Is a Stroke?

Strokes are one of the most common cardiovascular emergencies, and someone experiences a stroke every 40 seconds. Tragically, 140,000 people die each year from a stroke. During a stroke, you lose blood flow to your brain and tissues begin to die quickly. Strokes are typically caused by one of two things:

  • A blood clot stops the blood flow to your brain (an ischemic stroke)
  • A blood vessel in your brain ruptures (a hemorrhagic stroke)

With both types of stroke, a quick response is essential. Your brain tissues will start to die within minutes without oxygen—and your brain can’t regenerate these valuable cells and tissues.

Common stroke symptoms include:

  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or legs that is focused on one side of your body
  • Mental confusion and difficulty understanding other people
  • Slurred speech or difficulties with communication
  • Coordination and balance issues
  • Problems with your vision
  • Severe headache

If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, it’s vital that you seek immediate medical care and call 911.

What Does FAST Mean?

While stroke victims can exhibit a variety of symptoms, one of easiest ways to identify a stroke’s warning signs is the FAST mnemonic.

  • F: When the person smiles, does one side of their face droop?
  • A: If the person raises both their arms, does one arm drift downward?
  • S: Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • T: Note the time that the symptoms began and call 911 immediately.

When in doubt, it’s always best to call 911. Your quick response may be the difference between life and death.

As time passes, doctors have fewer options to treat a stroke. For example, the gold standard for ischemic stroke treatment is a medication called Alteplase IV r-tPA. This medication is delivered intravenously and can dissolve blood clots and restore blood flow if given within three-to-four hours of the onset of symptoms. While there are other options for stroke treatment, even most surgical options must be performed within no more than 24 hours of onset.

Our Alliance Contains Award-Winning Stroke Programs

The Canopy Health alliance contains some of the Bay Area’s premier cardiovascular and stroke hospitals. While only a fraction of the country’s acute-care hospitals are certified stroke centers, the majority of Canopy Health’s hospitals hold this designation.

Most of these programs are also recipients of the American Heart Association’s Get with the Guidelines-Stroke awards, which honor hospitals for their above-average response times and high-quality stroke care.

After a stroke, our members also can seek treatment with some of the most respected rehabilitation programs in the region. Good Samaritan Hospital, John Muir Health, and Saint Francis Hospital all have CARF-certified stroke rehabilitation programs. Studies show that stroke victims who receive intensive, interdisciplinary rehabilitation services, such as those offered at a CARF-certified program, tend to have better outcomes and fuller recoveries.


Miller, E., Murray, L., Richards, L., Zorowitz, R., Bakas, T., Clark, P., Billinger, S. (2010, September 2). Comprehensive overview of nursing and interdisciplinary rehabilitation care of the stroke patient: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Stroke. Retrieved from

Stroke facts (2017, September 6). CDC. Retrieved from

Stroke treatment (n.d.) American Stroke Association. Retrieved from