FAST - Face Arms Speech Time Stroke information

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Strokes are a medical emergency and urgent treatment is essential. The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen. If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance. Treating and preventing stroke continues to be a national clinical priority for Scotland.

Signs and symptoms

The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth may have dropped, and their eyelid may droop.
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
  • Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

Life after a stroke

Often individuals who survive a stroke are left with long-term problems resulting from the injury to their brain. Some people need to have a long period of rehabilitation before they can recover their former independence. Others may never fully recover and will need support adjusting to living with the effects of their stroke. Local authorities should provide free "re-enablement services" for anyone assessed as needing them. These services help the person recovering from a stroke to learn or relearn the skills necessary for independent living at home.

Read More about recovering from a stroke

Caring for someone who has had a stroke Around half the people who have a stroke will be dependent on some form of care for help with their daily activities. For example, a care worker could come to the person's home to help with washing and dressing, or even just to provide companionship.

Read more about care services in your home on Care Information Scotland.

Read more about caring for someone who has had a stroke

Can strokes be prevented?

You can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke through a healthy lifestyle, such as:

Lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels with medication also lowers the risk of stroke. Taking anticoagulant medication if you have an irregular heartbeat due to atrial fibrillation will also help prevent stroke.

If you've had a stroke or TIA in the past, these measures are particularly important because your risk of having another stroke in the future is increased.