October 25, 2018

Why FAST When You Can BEFAST? Spot a Stroke and Save a Life

By Robin Jones – Manager, Mission Stroke Program

Strokes cause about 1 in 19 deaths in the US each year, making it the third leading cause of death for women and the fourth leading cause of death for men. Strokes are also a leading cause of serious long-term health conditions and disability in America.

Catching a stroke in the moment is key, and to recognize a stroke when it’s happening means knowing the warning signs. You’ve heard of the acronym FAST when it comes to recognizing the warning signs of a stroke. But did you know that FAST is now BEFAST?

Acronyms make it easy for us to remember things that we may otherwise forget. In this case, the original FAST acronym was created to cover the primary stroke symptoms – and it did exactly that. But it did not address some of the less common, yet significant, signs of stroke like balance and eyesight.

The new acronym, “BEFAST,” has been revised by adding B for balance, and E for eyesight.

  • B: Balance – Is the person experiencing a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
  • E: Eyesight – Is the person having a sudden change in vision or trouble seeing?

But don’t forget the original acronym:

  • F: Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A: Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S: Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • T: Time – If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

The addition of the B and E to the acronym helps increase the potential to recognize strokes earlier.

Patients and loved ones are now able to receive the emergency care they need sooner – resulting in increased odds of early detection, treatment and improved outcomes. With the long-lasting and permanent damage of strokes relying heavily on rapid response, taking the time now to become familiar with the new acronym can help save a life later.

How soon a person receives care following stroke symptoms can often be a complete game changer for the long term. Lori Smith, Acute Stroke Ready team leader at Angel Medical Center, says, “It’s estimated that each minute a stroke goes untreated, the patient loses potentially 1.9 million neurons and ages the brain by more than three weeks. It’s very important to seek treatment immediately upon any unusual symptoms that appear.”

There have been numerous cases that validate the additions of balance and eyesight to the critical warning signs of a stroke. Medical professionals vouch that these two elements have great potential to recognize strokes earlier than the original FAST.

It only takes 2 minutes to learn the warning signs of stroke: BEFAST and you may save a life.

Robin Jones, MSN, RN, CNRN, SCRN, is the Stroke Coordinator for Mission Health.

To learn more about stroke services at Mission Health, visit missionhealth.org/stroke.