B.E. F.A.S.T to Recognize the Warning Signs of a Stroke

B.E. F.A.S.T to Recognize the Warning Signs of a Stroke.

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May is National Stroke Awareness month and a good opportunity to help people understand how to recognize a stroke and why it’s important to get immediate medical care. Stroke treatment is most effective when it’s given as soon as possible after symptoms begin. In fact, every minute counts when it comes to getting stroke treatment. That’s why knowing the warning signs of a stroke is critical to helping you or a loved one get to the emergency room fast.


A stroke is essentially a “heart attack” in the brain.

Most people know that chest pain is a sign of a heart attack and a reason to quickly dial 911. Fewer men and women know that a fast response is just as important if you have any signs of a stroke. 

Stroke is caused by either loss of blood flow (ischemic stroke) or blood accumulating where it doesn’t belong (hemorrhagic stroke). Regardless of the cause or type of stroke you have, the moment a stroke occurs, brain tissue begins to die rapidly. Unlike a heart attack, most strokes are painless, which is why some people may mistakenly wait it out to see if things get better.

Unfortunately, delayed care can lead to permanent brain damage or even death. For every minute that goes by, roughly two million brain cells can be lost. The earlier you can receive treatment, the more brain cells we can save and the better we can preserve your neurological function. 


B.E.F.A.S.T to recognize the warning signs of a stroke

We use the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T. to help people identify symptoms of a stroke. Because a stroke occurs so suddenly, often someone around you may notice warning signs before you do. Knowing the following warning signs may also help you to quickly spot a stroke occurring in someone else:


B - Balance

Changes in coordination may be a sign of a stroke. If someone has difficulty walking due to dizziness or weakness in one or both sides of the body, call 911.


E- Eyes

Visual impairments in one or both eyes, such as double vision or loss of eyesight, may be another warning sign.


F - Face

Drooping on one or both sides of the face may indicate a stroke. Look at the eyes, cheeks, or lips to see if you notice any abnormal drooping.


A - Arms

Another warning sign of a stroke is weakness in either arm. Most commonly, strokes affect one side of the body, so check if one arm might appear to be weaker than the other.


S - Speech.

Someone who is experiencing a stroke may have difficulty communicating. This could sound like slurred speech or words that don’t really make sense, signaling confusion. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase to see if you notice any speech impairments.


T - Time

If you or someone around you experiences one or more of these stroke symptoms, call 911 immediately to get to a hospital for life-saving treatment. Be clear with the 911 dispatcher that you’re experiencing or witnessing stroke signs. Do not attempt to drive to the emergency room on your own.

Even if your symptoms subside within five minutes, it’s important to seek prompt care. A small blood clot may have caused a “mini-stroke” or transient ischemic attack (TIA). While this may not result in damage to brain tissue, it’s often a warning sign that a larger, serious stroke may be coming. Your healthcare providers can help you understand and lower your risk of having a real stroke by addressing the underlying cause(s). 




Don’t wait for pain. Call 911 at the onset of any warning signs.

If you don’t have pain at the onset of a stroke, you may be inclined to wait and see if it gets better. But the faster you can get to the hospital to receive treatment within the appropriate time window, the higher the likelihood that you can leave the hospital with the best possible results. Treatments have time windows and we want to save as much brain tissue as possible. Intravenous (IV) medications that restore adequate blood flow must be given within 4.5 hours after your first symptom. And emergency endovascular procedures must be performed as soon as possible within 24 hours.

Time really matters. When you know how to B.E. F.A.S.T and call 911 at the signs of a stroke, you significantly increase the chances of getting the care you need to reverse or prevent stroke damage as quickly as possible.


Comprehensive stroke treatment and prevention in Baltimore.

You may not know when a stroke is coming, but knowing where to go when you notice warning signs can offer you peace of mind.

Our stroke program at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center serves as a hub for complex stroke cases in the Baltimore area. As a Comprehensive Stroke Center, we’re certified to provide the most state-of-the-art stroke care. This designation from the Joint Commission highlights our commitment to conducting research, training other healthcare professionals, and educating the community on stroke prevention. We have the experience, technology, and treatments necessary for advanced stroke care, and we’re honored to care for patients from around the region triaged from other hospitals.

If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Click below for more information about stroke prevention and treatment.

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