Act F.A.S.T to enjoy the precious moments

Always celebrate the precious moments with your loved ones, before and after a stroke. That’s the theme of National Stroke Week 2022 which runs from August 8th to 14th. You can help others enjoying precious memories too by sharing the F.A.S.T signs of stroke message with family and friends. 

Strokes occur when blood supply to the brain is interrupted, which deprives the brain of oxygen and important nutrients. This causes brain damage, or cerebral infarct, of crucial brain cells. Blood may be interrupted or stop moving through an artery if the artery is blocked, called an ischaemic stroke, or if the artery bursts which is called a haemorrhagic stroke. 

As the brain is divided into areas which control different things, the impact of the stroke depends on the area of the brain it damages. Stroke affects everyone differently and brain damage can impact how you think, behave, use words, swallow, see, feel, touch and move your body. 

Stroke can happen to anyone of any age. As we get older, our risk increases and men are typically at greater risk of stroke. However, stroke may be preventable through lifestyle changes including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, healthy eating, regularly exercising, reducing alcohol intake and giving up smoking. Other stroke risk factors include age, gender and family history of stroke. 

So what can you do if you or someone you know experiences the signs of stroke? No matter how long they last, call triple zero immediately as early intervention is key. The Stroke Foundation recommends the F.A.S.T test as a way to remember the most common signs of stroke.

FACE: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped? Can they poke out their tongue?

ARMS: Can they lift both their arms? 

SPEECH: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand and respond to you? 

TIME: Time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call 000 straight away. 

Although these are the common signs and symptoms of stroke, they are not the only ones. The following may occur alone or in combination: 

  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding 
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall
  • Loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • Headache, usually severe and abrupt onset or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches
  • Difficulty swallowing 

Sometimes the signs may disappear within a short time, such as a few minutes. When this happens, it may be a transient ischemic attack (TIA, or sometimes known as a ‘mini-stroke). After a TIA, your risk of stroke is higher and serves as a warning that you may have a stroke and therefore, an opportunity to prevent this from happening. 

By spreading the F.A.S.T message, we can support people living with stroke to enjoy the precious memories with family and friends while recovering from a stroke. To learn more about stroke, visit the Stroke Foundation at https://strokefoundation.org.au/ 

By Millie Christou