05 MAY 2023

B-E-F-A-S-T With Strokes

Profile of a human head with a stylized brain. Multiple red points appear around the brain, symbolizing blood clots. A red EKG line appears through he middle of the brain.
B.E.F.A.S.T. is an acronym used as a quick and easy way to help identify the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. On average, someone in the United States suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

With statistics like those, understanding what a stroke is and how to detect it early and get treatment quickly is key to improving survival, minimizing disability and speeding up recovery times. As May is National Stroke Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to learn more.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die. Early stroke detection and treatment are key to improving survival, minimizing disability and accelerating recovery times.

“During a stroke, a patient loses 1.9 million neurons each minute stroke treatment is delayed,” explains Beth Gladney N.P., NorthBay Health’s Stroke Program manager. “That’s why it is so important to ‘B.E.F.A.S.T.’ and get help quickly.”

B.E.F.A.S.T. is an acronym used as a quick and easy way to help identify the signs and symptoms of a stroke:

  • B stands for “Balance.” Does the person have loss of balance or are they dizzy or walking differently?
  • E stands for “Eyes.” Can they see out of both eyes? Ask if they have sudden vision loss or blurry or double vision.
  • F stands for “Facial Droop.” You can ask the person to smile and check to see if the smile is uneven, and also ask them if one side is numb.
  • A stands for “Arm Weakness." Ask the patient to raise both of their arms and look to see if one arm drifts down, or if the person complains of numbness on one side.
  • S stands for "Speech Difficulty." When the person speaks, listen to hear if the speech is slurred or difficult to understand. Sometimes a person may have a sudden loss of speech as well and not be able to get the words out that they are trying to say.
  • T stands for "Time," as in time to call 911. If someone looks like they are having a stroke, it is important to call 911 to ensure they get to the hospital quickly.

“Calling 911 allows emergency medical responders to begin treating the individual and call ahead to the hospital so that the team can be ready when the stroke victim arrives,” said Beth. “Call 911 right away; every second counts, even if the symptoms go away, as this could be a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), which has the same symptoms of a stroke although usually only lasts a short time and can be a warning sign that a stroke will occur.”

Learn more about the NorthBay Health Stroke Program. Speak with your primary care doctor to learn more about your personal risk for stroke and what can be done to prevent them.

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