Know the signs.
Act FAST.
Prevent stroke.

May is national stroke awareness month. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. One person dies from stroke about every 4 minutes. Stroke is also a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability.

Who is at risk for stroke? Anyone can have a stroke at any age. The likelihood of stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55. What may surprise you is more women have strokes than men and strokes kill more women than men, too. Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer.

You can reduce your risk of stroke by staying physically active, eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables, and limiting alcohol intake. Smoking cigarettes and using drugs (including cocaine, ecstasy, heroine, marijuana and meth) significantly increases your risk of stroke. High blood pressure increases your risk for stroke so have it checked. If your blood pressure is high, see your doctor to treat and keep track of it. High cholesterol is also a risk factor for stroke, which can be controlled by eating a low-fat diet and taking prescribed medications. Diabetes increases your risk for stroke. It can be diagnosed and treated by a doctor through diet, exercise and prescribed medications.

What is stroke? A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. Within minutes, brain cells can die. The parts of the body controlled by those brain cells can become impaired. The loss of functionality can be mild or severe and last temporarily or remain permanent.

The good news is that strokes can be treated and prevented. Knowing the signs and getting to a hospital quickly for treatment can minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and prevent death.

FAST is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. If you are unsure, call 9-1-1 anyway without delay.