A Faster Way to Spot a Stroke

You may already know the four letters that can help spot the signs of stroke: F-A-S-T, which stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911. But adding two more letters to make it "BE-FAST" can help bystanders identify more possible stroke victims.

“B” stands for balance and “E” for eyes, which are often affected by two prevalent symptoms: balance or gait problems and the sudden onset of visual problems.

Researchers came to this conclusion after identifying 736 people admitted to the University of Kentucky Stroke Center who were ultimately diagnosed with stroke. At least 40 percent of stroke victims had balance and vision disturbances, and 14 percent of all stroke victims showed no FAST signs. Their [findings were published January 2017 in the journal Stroke].

Fast action is essential when it comes to treating an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot forms in a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain or travels to the brain from another area of the body.

Doctors must administer a drug, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), within four and a half hours from stroke onset for it to stop the stroke and help avoid brain damage.

The sooner a stroke is diagnosed and tPA started, the better the patient’s outcome will be. Adding “BE” to FAST, say the researchers, could reduce the number of missed strokes from 14 percent to about 4 percent.

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HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into Healthcentral.com in 2018.