Stroke Awareness: the BE FASTER Acronym

Stroke Awareness: the BE FASTER Acronym

Every 40 seconds, a stroke occurs in the United States, and every year 797,000 people have a stroke. Out of all strokes, 87% are ischemic (caused by occlusion). The other major type of stroke is hemorrhagic (rupture or bleeding).

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S. They explain that 

a stroke occurs when a blood vessel [in the brain]  that carries oxygen and nutrients… is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures).

 The area of the brain around the clot or rupture is obstructed or pinched off from oxygen and nutrients and therefore begins to die immediately

Cell death, and the process thereafter, is complex. During the early stages of a stroke, the brain swells due to a chain of events that lead to drastic fluid shifts. This edema occupies space, pushing brain tissue firmly against the inner wall of the skull. Since the skull does not expand to allow space for swelling whatsoever, the brain is crowded and compressed, further damaging vital brain tissue. This development can be catastrophic and can happen at any time, so public awareness is crucial for survival.  

There are numerous signs that can indicate a stroke may be occurring. An acronym was developed in the UK in 1998 to help train medical professionals using the letters F.A.S.T. Throughout the years, there have been slight modifications or additions, but the pioneer acronym continues to be widely taught to identify signs of a stroke. 

One of the newly structured stroke acronyms is BE FASTER. This has the core meaning of FAST but has added letters for a few reasons. As the original acronym implies, act FAST when identifying and reporting a potential stroke victim. BE FASTER pushes that idea further, encouraging awareness and swift action. B and E add important classic signs of a stroke to watch for. Here is what each letter stands for: 

  • Balance- Poor balance or coordination, dizziness or falling for unknown reasons
  • Eyes- Blurry vision, double vision, unequal pupils, blindness in one eye, both, or partial
  • Face- Drooping of the mouth, numbness on one side of the face, ask the person to smile to look for unequal sides of the mouth
  • Arms- One arm is flaccid, weak, or numb. Have the person stick both arms straight out in front of them. Then ask them to close their eyes and hold the arms in place, not letting the arms fall. If one arm drifts down without the person realizing it, then a stroke is possible.
  • Speech- Slurred, garbled, inappropriate, jumbled words, or loss of speech
  • Time- “The phrase ‘time is brain’ emphasizes that human nervous tissue is rapidly lost as a stroke progresses” (ahajournals.org). Each minute, millions more neuronal deaths and brain tissue damage occur and continue to occur for hours or days. Take note as to the time the symptoms started or when the person was last seen normal.
  • ER– Whether it is a stroke or not, go to the ER immediately or call 911. There are treatments that can be done and even a medication that could reverse stroke effects if given within a certain amount of time.

Other signs include: 

Confusion – to person, place, and/or time 


Tongue deviation or “fat tongue” 

Severe nausea/vomiting  

Generalized weakness/numbness 


Educating oneself can save a life and public awareness can save yours. Spread the knowledge. Talk about stroke symptoms with friends and family. Act out a scene with your kids as appropriate. Do not be afraid to call 911 even if you are unsure. Be faster today. 


This article is for educational purposes only and does not replace a doctor’s advice or diagnosis.  

Stroke Facts | cdc.gov 

About Stroke | American Stroke Association 

Molecular Communication of a Dying Neuron in Stroke (nih.gov) 

Time Is Brain—Quantified | Stroke (ahajournals.org) 

How to Spot a Stroke: 5 Signs to Respond to F-A-S-T | The Iowa Clinic 

Know the Signs of Stroke – BE FAST | Duke Health 


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