Recall of FAST signs of stroke lagging in Sydney

A new survey has revealed knowledge of the most common signs of stroke among New South Wales residents is better outside of Greater Sydney.

The most common signs are highlighted by the acronym F.A.S.T. – Face (facial droop), Arms (inability to lift arms) and Speech (slurred speech). The T stands for time to remind people that after seeing any of the signs of stroke, they need to immediately call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

The Stroke Foundation survey found 42 percent of participants in the rest of New South Wales knew at least two of the F.A.S.T. signs of stroke. In comparison, that figure was only 24 percent for metro participants.

Stroke Foundation NSW State Manager Rhian Paton Kelly said the sample outside Greater Sydney included regional communities where the state’s telestroke service is being rolled out.

“There has been a targeted investment in community education in these areas, funded by the New South Wales Government,” Ms Paton-Kelly said.

“This data highlights this program is making a difference in stroke awareness. However, it also demonstrates more work needs to be done to ensure people right across the state learn, and can benefit from, this vital message which can help save lives and reduce stroke-related disability.”

It’s estimated almost 9,000 people in New South Wales will have a stroke this year for the first time.

“I hear many stories about incredible outcomes from stroke because someone knew the F.A.S.T. test and called triple zero (000) immediately,” Ms Paton-Kelly said.

“Stroke is always a medical emergency. When stroke strikes, there is no time to lose. Around 1.9 million brain cells can die every minute. Prompt medical treatment can stop this damage.”

“If you can recognise a stroke, you can take the vital first step in getting a person, often a loved one, the emergency medical help they need. This provides the best chance of a good outcome.”

People are encouraged to use the F.A.S.T test if they suspect a stroke:

• Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?

• Arms: Can they lift both arms?

• Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

• Time is critical. If you see any of these signs call triple zero (000) straight away.

Marrickville resident Jamie Fitzcarlos is grateful her husband Steve recognised she was having a stroke at home when she lost the ability to speak, collapsed to the ground and experienced a facial droop in 2017.

“Steve wasted no time calling triple zero (000) for help, and as a result of his action I was able to access the emergency medical treatment I needed to break up the blood clot in my brain,” Jamie said.

“I was only 34 years old at the time and I was fit and healthy. I am now passionate about spreading the F.A.S.T. message with my family, friends and community because stroke can happen at any age. Knowing this message could help save a life.”

Stroke Foundation also delivers F.A.S.T. signs of stroke awareness in eight languages; Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Arabic, Cantonese, Hindi and Korean. This is part of a broader consumer awareness and education program funded by the Australian Government. Targeted resources are also available for First Nations peoples.

Most strokes display one or more of the F.A.S.T. signs. Other signs are here.

The annual F.A.S.T awareness survey was conducted for Stroke Foundation by YouGov. The more than 5,200 Australians who participated included a weighted representation based on ABS figures from every state and territory.

Jamie is smiling, she is a boat and wearing a red hat

Image: Survivor of stroke Jamie Fitzcarlos from Marrickville credits the F.A.S.T. message for helping to save her life.

Key Findings – New South Wales

• Knowledge of at least two of the three F.A.S.T. signs of stroke- Greater Sydney 24 percent, rest of NSW 42 percent.

• Only 9 per cent of people know the inability to lift both arms is a sign of stroke

• 76 percent incorrectly identified signs of a stroke, even when given options to choose from, confusing them with heart attack symptoms like chest pain.

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