Western Australians are not FAST enough

A new survey has revealed greater awareness is needed in Western Australia of the most common signs of stroke to save lives and reduce stroke-related disability.

It’s estimated more than 2,700 Western Australians will have a stroke this year for the first time.

Worryingly, the Stroke Foundation survey found 38 percent of people in the state could not name any of the three most common signs.

These signs are highlighted in the acronym F.A.S.T. – Face (facial droop), Arms (inability to lift arms), 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 000 for an ambulance.

Stroke Foundation Western Australia State Manager Luke Hays said the survey indicated there is still a long way to go to ensure more people learn, and can benefit from, this potentially life-saving message.

“I have heard many stories about incredible outcomes from stroke because someone knew the F.A.S.T. test and called triple zero (000) immediately,” Mr Hays 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.

The Stroke Foundation’s F.A.S.T. awareness survey also revealed only 29 percent of people in Western Australia can recognise two of the three most common signs of stroke, with a worrying gap in people’s knowledge about the inability to lift both arms.

“Only 10 per cent of Western Australians identify arm weakness as a sign of stroke, yet it is one of the most common signs. Furthermore, almost one quarter of people would not call an ambulance if they suspected a stroke,” Mr Hays said.

“That is why we need to keep sharing the F.A.S.T message widely. It not only helps people remember the key signs to look for but prompts them to act as quickly as they can at the first sign.”

Bicton resident Rob Goyen is grateful his partner Vanessa was close to home and able to recognise he was having a stroke when he lost control of his arm and started slurring his words in September 2008.

“I was bringing in the wheelie bin when it just fell out of my hand. Luckily I was able to call Vanessa, although my words were jumbled, and she raced home. She called triple zero (000) immediately,” Rob said.

“I owe my life to her quick thinking, the paramedics and doctors who treated me.

“I was fit and healthy and only 34 years old. I am proof stroke can happen at any age. I now share the F.A.S.T. message with all of my family and friends. It could save a life.”

F.A.S.T. education augments good stroke treatment by cutting the time to get to emergency care, including Telestroke. Stroke Foundation thanks the WA State government for its critical investment in FAST education and advancements in treatment and care, but notes more work needs to be done to ensure the community can confidently act at the first sign of stroke.

Stroke Foundation also delivers F.A.S.T. signs of stroke awareness in eight language groups; 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 from every state and territory.

Rob is standing on a beach. He is wearing a hat and sunglasses, it is a hot and sunny day.

Image: Survivor of stroke Rob Goyen from Bicton credits the F.A.S.T. message for helping to save his life.

Key Findings

• 38 percent cannot name any of the most common signs of stroke.

• 29 percent recognise two of the F.A.S.T. signs of stroke.

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

• 76 percent would call triple zero (000) for stroke symptoms.

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