May is Stroke Awareness Month

(KOMO file photo)

If it's treated quickly, a stroke can be treated. It doesn't have to be fatal or cause permanent disability.

Unfortunately, most people don't know how to spot one. The American Heart/American Stroke Association wants you to know what to look for.

1. Drooping or numbness on one side of the face. Ask the person to smile and look to see if it's uneven or lopsided.

2. Arm weakness or numbness. The person cannot move one arm or has difficulty picking up things or drops things from their hands. Ask them to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward.

3. Difficulty with speech. This includes slurred or garbled speech, inability to communicate or difficulty getting words out.

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 9-1-1 right away and say, "I think they're having a stroke."

About 2,700 people in Washington die from a stroke each year and thousands more are disabled.

Stroke is not only treatable – it's preventable. There are many risk factors. The most important one is high blood pressure.

Dr. Fatima Milfred, a vascular neurologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center, says there are several others risk factors.

"They include Increased or elevated cholesterol levels, smoking, keeping your weight under control, having a healthy diet and diabetes,” she said. “It’s really important to keep all those risk factors under control."

Untreated sleep apnea can also raise the risk of having a stroke or heart attack, Dr. Milfred said.

Anyone of any age can have a stroke. In fact, stroke for people in their 30s and 40s is on the rise. The death rate from stroke for Hispanics is also going up dramatically.

More Info: Test your stroke knowledge

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