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Act F.A.S.T.: Save a life by learning stroke signs

Do you know how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T.?
Written by Dr. Jeff Switzer

Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke, and about every four minutes, it claims a life. Stroke kills more than 133,000 people a year, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. It’s the second leading global cause of death, behind heart disease.

Stroke is also the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States, because damage to the brain can affect the entire body and its functions. Like a heart attack, a stroke is serious, because it causes more long-term disabilities than any other disease. A stroke is sometimes called a brain attack, because it is typically triggered by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. The brain cells in the immediate area begin to die, because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function.

Stroke is clearly a debilitating event – that’s why we want to educate everyone on the signs and symptoms. The sooner you recognize that someone is having one, the sooner you can help them get emergency medical care. The quicker they receive help, the greater their chances of recovery.

Recognize stroke F.A.S.T.

The warning signs of stroke come on fast, and that’s a great acronym to use for learning the signs – F.A.S.T. (face, arms, speech, time).

F – Face droopy?

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 911

The window of opportunity to start treating stroke patients is three hours, but to be evaluated as to the most appropriate stroke treatment, patients need to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Following the steps below is critical in order to achieve the best outcome possible:

  • Know the warning signs (F.A.S.T.)
  • Call 911 immediately
  • Get to a hospital

Fast access to care

Augusta University Medical Center, located in the heart of the stroke belt, is the area’s only Joint Commission-certified Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center. Patients in rural Georgia hospitals have fast access to quality stroke care at Augusta University Medical Center and through REACH Health Inc., a telemedicine program pioneered at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, which allows neurologists to diagnose and treat stroke patients remotely.

To make an appointment and learn about our services and providers, call us at 706-721-4581 or visit

Take the next step for your health. Take our Stroke Risk Quiz and find out your stroke risk.

About the author

Dr. Jeff Switzer

Dr. Jeff Switzer serves as medical director of the Augusta University Comprehensive Stroke Center, director of Telestroke and Teleneurology and associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University (MCG). He is board certified in neurology and vascular neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and neurosonology by the American Society of Neuroimaging.

Switzer received a bachelor’s degree in psychology/biology from Swarthmore College in 1994. He earned a medical degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2001 and completed a neurology residency at MCG completed in 2005 and a vascular neurology fellowship the following year. In 2011, he received a master’s degree in clinical and translational science from Georgia Health Sciences University. In 2016, he became a fellow of the American Heart Association Stroke Council.