May is National Stroke Awareness Month, but Mayo Clinic health care professionals suggest spotting the signs and reducing stroke risk should be part of everyday awareness. A stroke happens every 40 seconds in the U.S., and the likelihood of stroke increases with age, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. with almost 800,000 cases diagnosed each year.
Stroke results from a blocked or torn blood vessel that decreases blood flow to the brain. Signs include difficulty with speech; moving an arm or leg on one side of the body; and facial asymmetry, like drooping.
"There are several things that you can do to reduce your risk of stroke. Probably the No. 1 thing is to control your blood pressure," says Dr. Miller.
It's important to know your numbers and work with your health care team to lower your blood pressure if it's too high. If you smoke, quit. And take steps to improve your heart health, such as exercising regularly and following a diet that's low in saturated fats and rich in fruits and vegetables.
"Keep the vessels that provide blood to your heart and the lungs to provide blood to your brain very healthy and very happy," says Dr. Miller.