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Stroke is a potential killer and in May, National Stroke Awareness Month, approximately 65,000 Americans will have a stroke, according to the National Stroke Association.

"Each year, nearly one million Americans suffer from a stroke," Jennifer Skinner,
stroke coordinator at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System said in a press release. "Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United

Knowing the signs of stroke and reacting to those signs quickly by getting to a hospital is key in survival.

It's extremely important to know and recognize the acronym 'B.E.F.A.S.T.' when it comes to stroke education,"
Jennifer Skinner, stroke coordinator at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System said in a press release. "Take a minute to memorize the acronym so you can act quickly—and acting quickly is what is most important. Time saves brain, and fast action saves thousands of lives and can prevent disability."

B.E.F.A.S.T. stands for:

B. Balance—Is there a sudden loss of balance or

E. Eyes—Is there sudden blurred or double vision or sudden, persistent vision

F. Face—Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face

A. Arm—Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S. Speech—Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or

T. Time—If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately, as time is very important during a stroke.

Making the appropriate decisions when stroke symptoms start can be the different between life and death.

"I think the most important thing is if you feel there is something wrong, come to the hospital and let us figure it out rather than trying to figure it out on your own. When a stroke happens the brain is not working so can't figure corrently. It's best to seek help quickly because time is brain," said Dr. Khalid Malik, Wadley stroke director.

TPA (tissue plasminogen activator) can be given up to 4.5 hours after stroke symptoms

"The sooner you give it the better the results and the more brain you'll be able to save," said Malik. "tPA limits damage and makes it possible for rehab to be

Many people may believe that strokes only happen to older people but that's not true.

"My youngest stroke patient to give tPA to was 22 years old and the oldest was 97 years old in the same week," Malik said. "Stroke happens at all ages. The most important things to remember is stroke can happen to you. It's not something that happens to other people."

Ongoing stroke education has impacted how quickly people recognize the symptoms of a stroke but more could be done.

"There's lots of room for improvement," Malik said. "We try to get the message out but more needs to get done."

St. Michael Health System offers patients a chance to learn more about their risks and prevention options by taking a free health risk assessment online at

The National Stroke Association wants to call attention to modifiable stroke risk factors. Following are those factors and how much stroke would be reduced if each were eliminated:

  •  Hypertension 47.9%
  •  Physical inactivity 35.8%
  •  Lipids (blood fats) 26.8%
  •  Poor diet 23.2%
  •  Obesity 18.6%
  •  Smoking 12.4%
  •  Heart causes 9.1%
  •  Alcohol intake 5.8%
  •  Stress 5.8%
  •  Diabetes 3.9%
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