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May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Did you know that there are approximately 795,000 strokes that occur each year? One occurs every 40 seconds and takes a life approximately every four minutes.

Strokes can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, increasing risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death.

In the U.S., stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, killing more than 133,000 people each year, and a leading cause of serious, long term adult disability. There are an estimated 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S. older than age 20.

Few in the U.S. know the warning signs of stroke. Learning them and acting fast when they occur could save your life or the life of a loved one.

Use the "FAST Test" to remember the warning signs of 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 slur or sound strange?

T = Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

There are two different kinds of strokes:

Ischemic stroke occurs when arteries are blocked by blood clots or by the gradual build up of plaque and other fatty deposits. About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks, leaking blood into the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for 13 percent of all strokes, yet are responsible for more than 30 percent of all stroke deaths.

Many risk factors are beyond your control, including being older than age 55, being a male, being African-American, having diabetes and having a family history of stroke.

If you have one or more of these risk factors, it is even more important that you learn how to make lifestyle choices that can reduce your risk.

Here are some more stroke prevention guidelines:

Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major stroke risk factor if left untreated.

Identify atrial fibrillation. Afib can increase stroke risk by 500 percent.

Stop smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke.

Control alcohol use. No more than two drinks each day.

Know cholesterol levels. High cholesterol clogs arteries and can cause stroke.

Control diabetes. Keep in close contact with your doctor regarding your diagnosis.

Manage exercise and diet. Excess weight strains the circulatory system.

Treat circulation problems. Fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain and lead to a stroke.

Act FAST at the first warning sign of stroke. Seek immediate medical attention.

Contact the National Stroke Association at 1-800-strokes for more information.