What is the FAST test for a stroke?

Parita Bhuva, MD
FAST is an acronym used to educate the public and to help us all remember what to look for if we think someone is having a stroke. The “F” stands for face. That means when asking a person to smile, you should pay attention to any asymmetry in their face. The “A” stands for arms. So, ask them to hold up both of their arms and see if one side drifts down or is not quite as high as the other side. The “S” stands for speech. Post-stroke speech is either slurring of words or difficulty coming up with the appropriate word. The “T” stands for time, as in, if you notice any of the first three things, it's time to call 911. Time is very critical because every minute a person has a blockage in the blood vessel, they’re losing 1.9 million brain cells.
Louis J. Durkin, MD
Emergency Medicine
FAST is an acronym for a test developed by the American Stroke Association to recognize stroke:
  • (F) Face: Is the person experiencing numbness or paralysis on one side of the face?
  • (A) Arms: Can he or she raise both arms to an equal height?
  • (S) Speech: Can you understand the person's speech?
  • (T) Time: Call 911 as soon as you notice slurred speech or weakness/numbness on one side of the body.
Stroke occurs when a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel prevents oxygen from reaching the brain, and it often strikes suddenly. Two million brain cells die every minute when the brain is deprived of oxygen. The quicker someone gets medical attention, the less damage occurs.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
David Cadogan, MD
Emergency Medicine
Use FAST -- facial weakness, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time -- to know when to call 911 to help a person having a stroke. In this video, David Cadogan, MD, explains what a stroke is and how to recognize stroke symptoms.
Lori Boyajian-O'Neill, DO
Sports Medicine
Use the acronym FAST to know how to recognize a stroke in yourself or others. In this video, Lori Boyajian O’Neill, MD, of HCA Midwest Health, explains what FAST stands for and why recognizing stroke symptoms and getting treatment quickly is crucial.
If you think someone else may be having a stroke, the National Stroke Association recommends to act FAST with this simple test:
  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he or she repeat the sentence correctly?
  • Time: If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Call 911 or get to the hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.
FAST stands for the stroke symptoms of face, arms, speech and time, says Phaniraj Iyengar, MD, a vascular neurologist at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he says that recognizing these symptoms and calling 911 is vital.
Jeffrey Saver, MD

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you'll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F.A.S.T. is:

F = Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?

A = Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T = Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms occurred.

 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine
The FAST test (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) can be performed to help recognize stroke symptoms:  
  • Face: Ask the person to smile. If one side droops, it may be a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.
  • Arms: Ask the person to hold out both arms in front of the body. If one arm droops, it may be a TIA or stroke.
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. If speech is slurred or garbled, or other errors occur, it may be a stroke or TIA.
  • Time: If any of these happens, call for medical help. Ask for the nearest stroke center hospital.H33
Doc's First Aid Guide: Read It Before You Need It

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Doc's First Aid Guide: Read It Before You Need It

In a medical emergency, time is of the essence. "Doc's First Aid Guide" is an illustrated, first-aid pocket handbook designed to be used as a quick reference and includes the latest CPR guidelines....

Continue Learning about Stroke Diagnosis & Tests

Stroke Diagnosis & Tests

Stroke Diagnosis & Tests

In an emergency situation like a stroke, it's important for doctors to first confirm the type of stroke to provide the appropriate treatment. Imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI can help determine the type of stroke; blood flow te...

sts like cerebral angiography, can help evaluate the size and location of blockages. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage of an artery in the brain, and a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain. When making the diagnosis, your medical history, symptoms, blood and urine tests will also be considered. Learn more about stroke diagnosis tests with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.