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COLUMN: Remember FAST for stroke prevention

— Few know the warning signs of a stroke. Learning them and acting FAST can save your life or the life of a loved one. FAST is an acronym. It stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time. The National Stroke Association recommends performing the following test if you suspect a stroke:

F = Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A = Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = Time: If you observe any of these signs independently or together, call 911 immediately.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. It is the fourth leading cause of death and takes the lives of 133,000 people each year in the U.S. It’s also the leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability. There are an estimated 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S. over age 20. Approximately 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year, and women are twice as likely to die from stroke than from breast cancer each year.

Everyone has some stroke risk. Some people are more at risk than others and it’s a good idea to be screened by your doctor. Some are beyond our control, however, many are lifestyle risks that can be controlled.

Know your blood pressure. If it is high, work with your doctor to keep it under control. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. If your blood pressure is higher than 135/85, check with your doctor about treatments or a course of action. Health care experts recommend finding out if you have atrial fibrillation, also called AF. AF can cause blood to collect in the chambers of your heart, which can form clots and cause a stroke. Doctors can detect AF by checking your pulse.

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