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Stroke affects people of all ages and backgrounds. The fourth leading cause of death in the United States, it’s estimated stroke costs Americans over $36.5 billion dollars each year. Since 1989, the month of May has been designated National Stroke Awareness Month to increase public awareness of lifesaving stroke prevention.

Five symptoms of stroke chart

FAST stands for Face, Arm, Speech, and Time:

  • Face:  Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm: Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms.
  • Speech:  Does their speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.
  • Time: If you observe any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

If you observe these symptoms and believe someone is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Taking action quickly can save lives and possibly reduce long-term disability.

You can also help prevent stroke with these healthy lifestyle tips:

Eat well.

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Limit the amount of sodium in your diet to help lower blood pressure. Eat foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat to help prevent high blood cholesterol.

Be active.

Physical activity helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol while maintaining a healthy weight. Adults are recommended to engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days per week.

Don’t smoke.

Cigarette smoking contributes to one in every five strokes in the United States. If you smoke, quitting will greatly reduce your risk of stroke. Consult your doctor for ways to successfully quit.

Limit alcohol use.

Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can cause high blood pressure. Women are recommended to limit themselves to one drink a day; for men, no more than two drinks per day.

Identify those at higher risk.

Some medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure increase the risk for stroke. Be sure to closely monitor these health problems and consult with your doctor to control them. Take medication as directed and follow prescription instructions carefully.

Start working towards stroke prevention today by making healthy choices and sharing your knowledge with others. We each play a crucial role in creating healthier communities.

How are you helping raise awareness for stroke prevention? Share your stories or suggestions in the comments section below, or tweet us @MassGov.

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