May is National Stroke Awareness Month, held every year to increase public awareness of a stroke and how to help victims of a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow is interrupted to part of the brain, meaning that the brain is deprived of oxygen and the cells begin to die. Stroke is the number 3 leading cause of death, and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. Additionally, 4 out of every 5 American families are affected by stroke. Therefore, it is very important to know what you can do in terms of preventing a stroke!
One way to help prevent a stroke is to watch for and control risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and circulation problems. Another way is to make lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, stopping smoking, controlling alcohol use, and keeping a healthy diet. The National Stroke Association provides a Stroke Risk Assessment Scorecard to help you determine the risk level of yourself and loved ones.
It is also important to know the warning signs of a stroke, as the sooner treatment is received, the better the chances of survival. To recognize the signs that someone is having a stroke, just remember the acronym “FAST”:
Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.