Director of Advocacy and Patient Support, Irish Heart Foundation
Stroke is Ireland’s third biggest cause of death and the biggest cause of acquired disability. One in six people here will have a stroke at some time in their life, so it’s useful to know what F.A.S.T. stands for.
They’re the four little letters that could save your life after a stroke — but only 1 in 10 people in Ireland know what F.A.S.T. stands for. Consequently, last year, around 2,500 stroke sufferers failed to get to hospital in time to receive treatment, which can be the difference between walking out of hospital after a few days or never being able to walk or talk again.
Be aware of the stroke signs
To tackle this deadly awareness deficit, the Irish Heart Foundation launched its ‘Act F.A.S.T. — Minutes Matter’ campaign fronted by actress Pauline McLynn, iconic for her role as tea-obsessed housekeeper Mrs Doyle in Father Ted.
F.A.S.T. stands for:
F – Facial weakness: Has the person’s face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
A – Arms: Can they keep both arms raised?
S – Speech: Is their speech slurred?
T – Time: It’s time to call an ambulance.
The average stroke destroys 2
million brain cells every minute.
Why people need to act fast
The average stroke destroys 2 million brain cells every minute. So, the faster you get to hospital after a stroke, literally more of your brain can be saved. The ‘T’ is the crucial letter. There’s no point knowing the warning signs unless you ring an ambulance without delay if you see any single one of them.
Treatment possibility for stroke
There have been huge improvements in acute stroke treatment and care in the last decade, cutting the death rate by over 30%, in addition to major reductions in permanent severe disability.
These include the clot-busting treatment thrombolysis and thrombectomy, which involves a tube being fed through the groin to the brain using specialist equipment to retrieve the clot blocking the blood supply to the brain. However, these high-tech treatments and the huge expertise of the doctors who deliver them are worth nothing unless patients get to hospital in time to benefit.
The time window to administer thrombolysis is generally four-and-a-half hours, but only 60% of stroke sufferers are getting to hospital within this time compared to 73% eight years ago. Even if you don’t have a stroke yourself, somebody you love may. Knowing these four little letters — F.A.S.T. — could make all the difference.