Heart diseases are the second leading cause of death in Canada after cancer, so it’s crucial to identify the problem at the earliest and to nip it in the bud! However, in order to mitigate a problem, you must first understand it and identify the symptoms that indicate its onset.

Hence, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you identify someone is having a stroke:

What is a Stroke?

A stroke happens when blood flow to your brain is interrupted by a clot in the blood vessels or the arteries. This results in a shortage of oxygen supply to your brain, leading to brain damage.

Strokes are different from a heart attack because in a heart attack, it’s usually the blood flow to your heart that’s interrupted by a clot. So it won’t be wrong to call a stroke a brain attack.

Signs of a Stroke

Now that we know that a stroke is different from a heart attack, it’s a given that the signs and symptoms vary as well. There are many different ways in which you can identify a stroke. However, the most effective and easy-to-remember is the one below:


Acting FAST

Fast is just another method or step-by-step checklist that can help you identify what a stroke looks like. It stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time. This means that these are the four factors that you should refer to if you feel a stroke coming.


Facial expressions are integral to identifying an oncoming stroke. Ask the person experiencing the stroke to smile. If the smile is droopy, that’s strike one. Because vital blood supply to the brain is interrupted, your brain malfunctions, resulting in facial muscles to act abnormally.


Check for the functionality of their arm muscles. Ask the patient to elevate both their arms, if they have difficulty in doing so, or if one arm is higher than the other, they might be having a stroke because the brain isn’t able to complete the task or send proper signals to their arms.


Impaired speech is another vital sign of a stroke. Ask the person to say something, like a tongue twister. If their speech keeps breaking down and their words end up slurred, it’s time for you to call for help.


This is the make or break factor. Timeliness is most important in saving the patient’s life. If you identify any of the above signs don’t hesitate to call 911.

Other symptoms

Impaired or blurred vision, loss of balance or coordination and dizziness; all indicate an onset of a stroke. In all events, call for professional assistance immediately.

In the meantime, to keep the patient alive, sign up for our Red Cross life support and First Aid training classes Across British Columbia. Don’t let a stroke take a strike at your friend and contact us now!