Nearly every 40 seconds, someone in America suffers a stroke. And about one of every 18 deaths in our country is due to a stroke. Those who survive a stroke often face life-changing after effects.
A stroke often occurs without warning. It happens when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, either by a blood clot or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Acting fast when stroke strikes can make a big difference in a person’s chance for survival and recovery.
Neurologist Dr. Curtis Benesch says it’s important to stay healthy, eat well, exercise, and know the signs of a stroke so you can get help quickly if symptoms occur.
He offers these tips for recognizing a stroke and taking steps to lower your risk of having one.
Think FAST—This simple acronym can help you remember signs of a stroke:
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arm: 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 911 immediately.
Anyone can have a stroke, no matter their age, race or gender. You are at greater risk for stroke if you have any of these factors:
- high blood pressure,
- high cholesterol,
- circulation disorders or heart disease,
- a family history of strokes.
The good news is that you can reduce your risk of stroke by:
- knowing your numbers, both your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels,
- avoiding heavy alcohol use,
- not smoking,
- maintaining a healthy weight.
Even better news is that most strokes can be prevented, and the best way to protect yourself is to understand your personal risk and how to manage it.
Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., is a vascular neurologist and medical director of the UR Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center. He leads the community-wide stroke collaborative called STAR —Stroke Treatment Alliance of Rochester —which is dedicated to improving stroke care and education.