App of the Week: Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T.

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The F.A.S.T. app helps identify the signs of a stroke.

More than half of all Americans know someone who has had a stroke. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association wants residents of central Pennsylvania to recognize American Stroke Month this May by learning to spot a stroke F.A.S.T. The acronym F.A.S.T. stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 9-1-1.

There is also a new mobile F.A.S.T. app to help users identify signs of a stroke and respond quickly.

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs and symptoms of a stroke. F.A.S.T. stands for:


  • Face Drooping – During a stroke, one side of the face may droop or become numb. If you believe someone has suffered a stroke, ask them to smile.

  • Arm Weakness – Stroke often causes one arm to become weak or numb. If one arm drifts downward or suddenly drops an object and is unable to hold on it, the person may have suffered a stroke.

  • Speech Difficulty – Speech may become slurred, difficult to understand or even impossible when having a stroke. A person may suddenly have difficulty speaking, answering simple questions or putting together a sentence.

  • Time to call 9-1-1 – If a person shows any stroke symptoms, even if the symptoms appear to go away, it is critical to call 9-1-1 and get them to a hospital immediately. A new study shows that more than one-third of people do not call 9-1-1 for help.
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Local stroke survivor Nicki Overholt of Lebanon, Lebanon County is living proof of the importance of knowing how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T.

Just one year ago at age 51, Nicki was playing tennis with a group of friends when she suddenly and unexpectedly dropped her racquet. She attempted to pick the racquet up, but dropped it again. The third time, she was able to hold onto the racquet long enough to serve the ball, but her friends knew something was very wrong. When they asked Nicki how she was feeling, they realized she was unable to speak.

They recognized that Nicki was experiencing two very common signs of a stroke, arm weakness and speech difficulty, and called 9-1-1 immediately. Their quick action ensured Nicki was able to get to a nearby hospital quickly and receive treatment. Today, Nicki is as active as she was before her stroke and still plays tennis with her friends regularly. However, she has struggled to regain her ability to speak clearly and receives regular speech therapy to help her recover.

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Stroke survivor Nicki Overholt.

“I was healthy and active and I had not thought about my risk for stroke,” said Overholt.

“I didn’t think it could happen to me. Now, I can offer my story to others to encourage them to look carefully at their own health and make changes to reduce their risk.”

Other signs of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, sudden confusion or trouble understanding, sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking or maintaining balance, and sudden severe headache with no known cause.

The American Stroke Association has introduced the new F.A.S.T. mobile app to help users identify the signs of stroke and respond quickly, including video tutorials, stroke facts and a tool to locate nearby hospitals that have received stroke care recognition. The app is free to download and is currently available for iPhone and iPad users.

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Nicki with her friend Maine Keith.

Stroke is the number four cause of death and the leading cause of disability among adults in the United States, killing 128,000 people each year or one person every four minutes. About 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year, or about one every 40 seconds, yet it is estimated that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. Lowering blood pressure is one primary way to prevent stroke. Lowering systolic blood pressure by 20 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 10 mmHG may decrease stroke risk by about 50 percent.

For more information about learning the warning signs of a stroke, visit www.strokeassociation.org/warningsigns.

Download the F.A.S.T. app for free.

About the American Heart Association
Founded in 1924, we are the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases — America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers — we fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. For more information about the American Heart Association, visit www.heart.org.