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BE FAST: Stroke warning signs

Time is everything when someone you love is having a stroke, which is why it is important you know the stroke warning signs. Some use the BE FAST acronym to recognize both an acute and ischemic stroke.

Stroke warning signs
Use BE FAST to recognize the stroke warning signs.
  • Balance: Does the person suddenly have issues with balance?
  • Eyes: Ask the person if they suddenly have vision problems.
  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
  • Time to call 911: Call 911 if you notice these symptoms.


Understanding your risk for a stroke

What’s the best way to minimize a stroke? Lower the risk to help prevent it from happening.

“The best way a patient can stay stroke free is prevention – by controlling the risk factors that are under their control (modifiable ones) early on with proper diet/lifestyle modifications, early screening tests and medications, if needed,” said Derli Mills, Marshfield Clinic Health System Neurology nurse practitioner.

Eighty percent of all strokes are preventable. Start by managing key risk factors like uncontrolled high blood pressure (responsible for more than half of all strokes) and other risk factors including smoking, atrial fibrillation and lack of physical activity.

“There are several risk factors that put a patient at a high risk for stroke including modifiable ones such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia (abnormal levels of lipids in the bloodstream), smoking, kidney disease, sleep apnea, atrial fibrillation, heavy alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diet,” Mills said. “In addition, there are other non-modifiable risk factors such as genetic susceptibility, age, race and sex. Also, people who had prior strokes, transient ischemic attack (TIA) or heart attacks have a much higher risk of having another stroke in the future.”

Women are at a higher risk for stroke than men due to additional risk factors such as pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia, gestational diabetes and oral contraceptive use, Mills said.

For immediate care, visit Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Find an emergency department location

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3 responses to “BE FAST: Stroke warning signs”

  1. petra waite

    I have been having a pain in my shoulder and at times its also in the upper part of the neck, that's my left side. Also at times I feel a slight numbness in my hands and feet. I went to the doctor and he said nothing was wrong but I'm anemic, but another doctor had given me some clopidogtel tabs before.there are also timed when I go to sleep and wake up with a headache.

    1. Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor

      Hi, Petra. We cannot provide individualized medical advice on this forum and suggest you bring your concerns to your doctor if they have not changed or improved.

      If you do not have a primary care provider, you can find one here: https://marshfieldclinic.org/doctors


      1. petra waite

        Thank you!

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