The main signs of stroke

Learn the main signs of stroke and to act FAST by calling 111 if you suspect a stroke.

Is it a stroke? Learn FAST and call 111 immediately if you suspect a stroke!

The FAST campaign encourages everyone to learn the key signs of stroke and to act FAST by calling 111 if they suspect a stroke. Prompt action can save lives - as well improve recovery.

It is vital to recognise when someone is having a stroke and to start treatment as soon as possible, because the sooner medical treatment begins, the more likely brain damage can be reduced and a better outcome achieved.

That's because Time is Brain - the quicker a clot can be dissolved or removed, the less damage is done, and the better the chance of a strong recovery.

A stroke is a brain attack - it's very serious. The symptoms might show on the face, arm or in speech, but it's the brain that's being damaged.

Even if the signs seem to come right by themselves, call 111. Don't call your doctor, or drive yourself - get help immediately. Ambulance staff want to hear from you if you recognise the FAST signs - call 111 and tell them it's a stroke. You can learn more about what a stroke is here.

What are the signs of stroke?

The signs and symptoms of stroke usually come on suddenly. The type of signs experienced will depend on what area of the brain is affected.

Common first signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden weakness and/or numbness of face,
  • Sudden weakness of the arm (and/or leg)
  • Difficulty speaking, words jumbled, or lost voice
  • FAST symptoms are present in 85% of strokes

How can you tell if someone is having a stroke?

By learning to recognise the symptoms of stroke you could save a life! Watch the video above, or look at this graphic. Learn the FAST check.

FAST campaign - Stroke Foundation NZ

FACE                    - Is their face drooping on one side? Can they smile?
ARM                     - Is one arm weak? Can they raise both arms?
SPEECH               - Is their speech jumbled or slurred? Can they speak at all?
TAKE ACTION     - Call 111 immediately.

Stroke is always a Medical Emergency - Act FAST

Even if the symptoms go away quickly or don’t cause pain you should call 111 immediately.

Auckland mum, Angela Hood - Stroke Foundation NZWe know FAST works, because we hear from New Zealanders who owe their life or recovery to FAST. Many of these people never expected to have a stroke. But when it came, either they or someone close to them knew what to do.

Auckland mum Angela Hood had a stroke while driving. Luckily police recognised her symptoms, took action and got her to hospital fast, so she could recover. 

Angela got in touch to tell us her amazing story. You can watch a Newshub video about her experience here.


The FAST campaign is a joint initiative between the Stroke Foundation, Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency.

You can watch social media star Johnny Tuivasa-Scheck's great short video about FAST here: 


FAST posters, fliers, wallet cards and fridge magnets are available from National Office on strokenz@stroke.org.nz or your regional Stroke Foundation office.

Or you can download them as PDFs here:
FAST poster

FAST flier

FAST wallet card

FAST fridge magnet

We also have FAST posters in a range of different languages.

FAST in Te Reo

FAST in Samoan

FAST in Cook Island Maori

FAST in Tongan

There are stories about how people recovered from their stroke thanks to FAST here.

Other signs of stroke may include one, or a combination of:

  • Weakness or numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall
  • Loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • Headache, usually severe and abrupt onset or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches
  • Difficulty swallowing

(Note: FAST covers the main symptoms of stroke. It is not exhaustive. Other symptoms may present during a stroke as well as, or instead of, those listed above. Further information is available from your doctor. If you believe someone is having a stroke for whatever reason - call 111)

Please help us today

Stroke devastates lives. 
Help us rebuild the lives of New Zealanders who experience the impact of stroke. Together, we can give them hope.