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May – National Stroke Awareness Month

Each year, nearly 800 thousand people in the United States experience a stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Of those, approximately 140,000 die, making stroke the third leading cause of death in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of serious disability. Though the incidence of stroke has decreased significantly over the past decade, it remains important to know the risk factors and the signs.

Risk factors for CVA include age, race and other health conditions. Nearly 75 percent of individuals who suffer from a stroke are over 65 years of age. African Americans are at higher risk, even at younger ages. Strokes are more likely in individuals who smoke, are overweight, have high blood pressure, and are diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. Healthy lifestyle choices and managing chronic illness can reduce the risk of stroke.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off (ischemic) or when a blood vessel bursts (hemorrhagic). Brain cells begin to die when deprived of oxygen. For this reason, when a CVA occurs, time is of the utmost importance. Acting quickly can save your loved one’s life and improve their quality of life.

The FAST acronym will is an easy way to remember the signs of a stroke. Use these guidelines to quickly assess if a person is experiencing a CVA.

F:  Face – Ask the person to smile. If one side of their face droops, seek medical attention.

A: Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Watch for one arm drifting downward.

S: Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and listen for slurred, strange speech.

T: Time. If these signs are observed, don’t delay! Call 911 immediately.

Increased awareness can save lives as well as increase quality time with loved ones. Celebrate the month of May by helping others know about preventing and recognizing strokes.