Every 40 seconds in the United States, someone has a stroke, making it the third leading cause of the death in the U.S. Do you know the signs of stroke? Would you be able to help yourself or a loved one in the event of a stroke? May is Stroke Awareness Month, a time to brush up on your stroke knowledge so you can help save a life — maybe even yours.

Symptoms of a stroke

The acronym F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911) was established to help spot and help someone suffering from a stroke as quickly as possible. The onset of stroke, just like its symptoms, are sudden. If you experience any of the following, you could be having a stroke and shouldn’t waste any time calling 9-1-1 even if you’re only having one of the five major signs of stroke:

  • Weakness or numbness, especially on one side of the body, in your face, arms or legs
  • Confusion and/or trouble speaking (This can make it hard, if not impossible to call 9-1-1. So know your options. In many areas, you’re able to text 9-1-1. Know if you live in one of these areas. Whether or not you live in a textable area, if you call 9-1-1 and cannot respond, leave the line open. Emergency services can match your landline to an address or use GPS to locate your cell phone and will send help.)
  • Trouble seeing or blurred vision
  • Difficulty walking, balancing, dizziness or a loss of coordination
  • Severe headache

You’ll want to reach out to emergency services within five minutes of the sudden onset of symptoms. You should also try to note the time symptoms started, as it will help the emergency staff treat you.

Stroke risk factors

So much of lowering risk for stroke and other illnesses is prevention. Be sure to keep your regular check-ups and maintain consistent treatment for any conditions you currently have. Some risk factors to take note of include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of or no physical activity
  • High cholesterol
  • Carotid artery disease

For more information on these and other stroke risk factors, stop by StrokeAssociation.org. If you have any concerns about your health or think you might be at risk for stroke, talk to your doctor.