Know the 'FAST' Way to Recognize a Stroke

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Senior man having a stroke

If someone were having a stroke, would you be able to spot the signs? Knowing when a stroke is happening and calling 911 right away increases the chances that treatment will take place as quickly as possible. The most effective treatments need to be administered within three hours after symptoms begin.


According to the National Stroke Association, a simple test can help you tell if someone is having a stroke. Just remember the acronym FAST:

  • FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

  • ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? 

  • SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

  • TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

Let the experts help you. Don’t drive the person to the emergency department (ED). When you call 911, emergency personnel can start lifesaving treatment on the way to the hospital.

Know Where to Go

When someone is having a stroke, it’s helpful to know the quality of local hospitals ahead of time. Delays in healthcare providers identifying and treating a stroke can affect stroke recovery. Hospitals should aim to meet these stroke treatment goals:

  • Evaluate a patient with signs of a stroke within 10 minutes of arriving in the ED.

  • Notify the stroke team within 15 minutes of arriving in the ED.

  • Perform a CT scan within 25 minutes of arriving in the ED.

  • Interpret the CT scan within 45 minutes of arriving in the ED.

  • Treat the patient with intravenous medication called recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA, or simply tPA) within 60 minutes of arriving in the ED. This medication works to break up blood clots, the most common cause of a stroke. These are ischemic strokes. If the scan shows a person is having an ischemic stroke, they will receive tPA.

Go to to learn about the quality of stroke care at hospitals in your area.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. Act Fast. National Stroke Association. 

  2. Stroke Signs and Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

  3. Stroke Treatments. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  4. Target: Stroke. American Stroke Association.