When it comes to strokes, BEFAST.

When you have sudden health changes, and you’re not sure what’s happening, some Mainers might consider taking a nap or waiting it out. But if it’s a stroke, that’s the last thing you want to do. Spotting and responding to symptoms of a stroke too late can be disabling or fatal. 

Knowing the symptoms can be lifesaving. Use the acronym BEFAST, with the key takeaway to act quickly after seeing a sudden changes in any of these signs of stroke: 

  • Balance – Is there a loss of balance or coordination? 
  • Eyes – Is there a loss or change in vision? 
  • Face – Is one side of the face drooping? 
  • Arms – Is there weakness or numbness in an arm or leg? 
  • Speech – Is it hard to form words, are words not making sense, or is there difficulty speaking? 
  • If any of these symptoms occur, it’s Time to call 911. 

“When talking about stroke, we say time equals brain,” explains nurse program manager, Angela Wheelden, BSN, RN, SCRN, Northern Light Stroke Care. “A stroke cuts off much-needed blood supply, oxygen, and nutrients to the brain. So, the quicker you receive treatment, the better the outcome. Patients who are treated within 24 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms may be candidates for a clot-busting medication or blood clot removal. Even if it’s been 24-hours, we recommend calling 911 as soon as you can.” 

Strokes cause vital brain tissue to die. So, fast response, by calling 911, is imperative. On the way to the hospital, emergency medical staff notify the team awaiting your arrival to provide rapid assessment and treatment. At stroke centers like Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, a specialized team meets patients when they arrive by ambulance and fast tracks them into treatment. 

There are ways to decrease your chance of getting a stroke. The number one risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure, so it is important to know your numbers and control your blood pressure with the help of your primary care physician. Also, make healthy lifestyle choices including eating a balanced diet, getting daily exercise, not smoking, moderating your salt and alcohol intake, and scheduling an annual checkup with your primary care provider. 

We hope you don’t need to use BEFAST, but you’ll be glad you learned these signs of stroke if you need to call 911 for a loved one experiencing a stroke. Be sure to teach your family about BEFAST and to learn more about stroke risk factors, prevention, symptoms, and treatment, at the CDC.

To learn more about stroke and get information about a monthly stroke support group for patients and families, visit northernlighthealth.org/StrokeCare.