Published on May 12, 2022

When it comes to recognizing a stroke, Essentia says “BE FAST”

In recognition of National Stroke Awareness Month, Essentia Health is urging people to refresh their knowledge about stroke signs and symptoms because the faster a stroke is treated, the better the chances are of preventing permanent damage or death.

During a stroke, blood flow to the brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells begin to die and functions controlled by the affected area of the brain are impacted. Every second that a stroke goes untreated, 30,000 brain cells die.

Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability and the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. To improve outcomes, there is an easy acronym to remember – BEFAST, which stands for:

  • Balance: Does the person have sudden loss of balance?
  • Eyes: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
  • Face: Smile. Does side of the face droop?
  • Arms: Raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Repeat a simple phrase. Is speech slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 right away.

“When it comes to stroke, every second counts,” says Megan Carlblom, an Essentia nurse practitioner specializing in interventional neurology. “The shorter the time between symptoms and treatment, the more long-term damage we can prevent. Essentia Heath is a certified Comprehensive Stroke Center and we are ready to BEFAST in order to treat you or your loved ones.”

Carlblom recommends that stroke patients call 911 immediately, rather than driving themselves to the hospital or getting a ride from a loved one.

“The ambulance knows exactly where to bring the patient and can alert the hospital on the way, so the stroke team is ready to act quickly,” she said.

According to the American Stroke Association, 80% of strokes are preventable. Here are some lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce risk of stroke:

  • Lose weight.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Drink less alcohol.
  • Reduce stress.

Take some time to talk to your health care provider about your risk for stroke and make a plan to start reducing that risk.