EDITORIAL: Stroke awareness saves lives

May 2—Stroke is the leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association.

Since May is recognized as Stroke Awareness Month, we want to take this opportunity to share some important facts and precautions with our readers.

Georgia is considered to be the "buckle" of what is called the "stroke belt," the region in the southeastern United States with the highest incidence of stroke, hospital officials said.

An easy way to remember the signs of a stroke is the abbreviation "BE FAST"

B: Balance. Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?

E: Eyes. Has the person lost sight in one or both of their eyes?

F: Face Drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

A: Arm Weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S: Speech Difficulty. Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T: Time to call 911. If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Quickly recognizing the signs of someone having a stroke and promptly calling 911 can mean the difference between life and death.

BE FAST is a great acronym to use in the event you believe you might be witnessing someone having a stroke, hospital officials have said.

Rapid treatment is the key to treating stroke.

There are also ways people can help reduce their risks of having a stroke, such as monitoring their cholesterol, maintaining a good diet, exercising and not smoking.

Reducing your risk could save your life but understanding the signs of a stroke has the potential to save someone else.

Learning how to spot a stroke is just as important as teaching your family CPR or what to do in the event of a fire. With stroke — just like a cardiac arrest or a fire — seconds count.