By Ajeet Singh, MD
This health education column originally appeared in The Item, a
local newspaper serving Clinton, Berlin, Bolton, Boylston, Lancaster and
Imagine you're at a family cookout when you notice a relative starting to act
differently. Her speech is slurred and her face isn't moving normally. It could
be the wine she was drinking or the summer heat affecting her, but by
remembering the acronym "FAST" and asking her a few simple questions, you could
save her from a fatal stroke.
Strokes are the number three cause of death in America, trailing only heart
disease and cancer. According to the American Stroke Association, close to
800,000 Americans will have a stroke this year and more than 143,000 will die as
a result. Being able to identify the warning signs and knowing what to do is
vital to helping someone survive a stroke. Getting the stroke victim to the
nearest hospital quickly increases the chances of reversing any damage a stroke
A stroke is caused by a blood clot or rupture in a vessel that carries oxygen
and blood to the brain. This interruption depletes the brain of oxygen and
nutrients and in turn shuts down functions such as speech, facial expressions
and limb function.
If you believe someone is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. Stroke
victims who are diagnosed and treated quickly have a higher survival rate and
often experience fewer lasting disabilities. The more time that passes before
the stroke victim reaches the hospital, the more permanent the damage that can
occur in the brain.
Warning signs of a stroke can be easily remembered with the acronmyn,
- Face - Ask the person to smile to see if one side of their
face droops. Stroke can cause
weakness or numbness in one side of the face.
- Arm - See if the person can raise their arms above their
head to check for loss of
strength in one or both of their limbs.
- Speech - Ask the person to speak in a complete sentence to
show if their speech is
slurred and their thoughts are coherent.
- Time - If the person is unable to perform one or more of
these acts, they may be having
a stroke, and you should call 911 right away.
Stroke survival is dependent upon immediate care. If you believe someone is
having a stroke ... act FAST. Call 911. You could save a life.
Dr. Ajeet Singh is a physician in the Emergency Department at Clinton
Hospital. Clinton Hospital is certified as a primary stroke service by the
Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In 2008 the hospital was awarded with
the American Stroke Association's Get With The GuidelinesSM-Stroke (GWTG-Stroke)
Silver Performance Achievement Award for the hosptial's commitment to and
success in ensuring that stroke patients receive treatment according to
nationally accepted standards and recommendations.