Think FAST: World Stroke Day 2021

fast campaign

Ahead of World Stroke Day on 29 October the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people to think ‘FAST’ if they see someone having a stroke.

Stroke is a common cause of death and disability in Northern Ireland. There are approximately 2,800 new strokes here every year, and while the majority of strokes occur in people over the age of 65, it can strike at any age, with 25% occurring in people under the age of 65.

Dr Brid Farrell, Deputy Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “This World Stroke Day we want to raise awareness of the main signs and symptoms of stroke and what to do if you think you or someone you know is having a stroke because early diagnosis improves the chances of a good recovery.

“The theme of this year’s World Stroke Day focuses on saving #PreciousTime, referring to the need to act FAST in the aftermath of a stroke, as well as how that action can improve the quality of life for stroke survivors.

The ‘FAST’ campaign highlights the key signs and symptoms of stroke in an easy to remember way and emphasises the need to call 999 immediately if you notice any single one of these signs:

  • Face - Has it fallen on one side?
  • Arms - Can they raise them?
  • Speech – Is it slurred?
  • Time –If you notice any of these signs make the call, Dial 999

Knowing the signs and symptoms and acting FAST can improve the chances of survival and reduce the level of disability that results from a stroke. Even if symptoms are mild or don’t last, dial 999 immediately. Do not delay seeking urgent medical care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A person is at a higher risk of death or disability if they take a stroke than from COVID-19 if not treated urgently.

When somebody has a stroke, every second that goes by is crucial. The Precious Time campaign continues to raise awareness about stroke symptoms and the importance of acting FAST. The faster you act the more of the person you can save.

Dr Brid Farrell advised: “Stroke is a ‘brain attack’, which happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off and brain cells are damaged or die. The sooner somebody who is having a stroke gets urgent medical attention, the better their chances of a good recovery.

“A stroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention, so recognising a stroke and calling 999 for an ambulance is crucial.”

Dr Michael McCormick, Interim Clinical lead with the Stroke Network for NI said: “World Stroke Day and the theme of this year’s campaign “Precious Time” emphasises the importance of seeking urgent medical care if a member of the public or someone they know experiences any of the symptoms of stroke. Stroke treatments are most effective if given early after stroke onset, “Time is Brain”. Knowing the signs and symptoms and acting FAST can improve the chances of survival and reduce disability.”

It is important to remember that many strokes can be prevented.  You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by:

  • knowing and managing your personal risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat (eg atrial fibrillation), diabetes and high blood cholesterol
  • stopping smoking
  • exercising regularly
  •  maintaining a healthy weight;
  • reducing alcohol consumption;

For further information visit: and

Notes to the editor

World Stroke Day is held on 29th October each year. The annual event was started in 2006 by WSO who declared stroke a public health emergency in 2010. World Stroke Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the serious nature and high rates of stroke, talk about prevention and treatment, and ensure better care and support for survivors. More at