Did you know that someone in the U.S. has a stroke about every 40 seconds?

This means over 795,000 people have a stroke every year. And while stroke kills around 129,000 of these people and is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., the rest survive, making stroke the number 1 preventable cause of disability.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is an injury to the brain caused when a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked or bursts, cutting off blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Blockage by a blood clot is the cause of 87 percent of strokes, called ischemic strokes, and bleeding causes the other 13 percent called hemorrhagic strokes.

What are the signs of a stroke?

Think FAST.

Face drooping or numbness, Arm weakness or numbness, Speech difficulty with slurring of words or unable to speak. If any of these are happening to you or someone else, itís Time to call 911 and get to a hospital. Other signs may be sudden leg weakness or numbness, confusion or trouble understanding, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, dizziness or sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Why is it important to get help right away?

The long-term effects of stroke may be minimized with immediate treatment. Knowing what time the symptoms started is also important, as certain treatments like clot-busting medicine can only be given within a certain period of time.

What can we do to prevent stroke?

More than 58 percent of Americans donít know they are at risk for a stroke. Just knowing you are at risk for stroke is important.

Over 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with healthy behaviors. The leading risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure, especially if it is uncontrolled with readings over 140/90mmHg. Other major risk factors include a heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation, which increases the risk of stroke up to five times, and diabetes, which more than doubles the risk. Smoking increases risk two to four times versus a nonsmoker, but routine, moderate to heavy physical activity can decrease risk by 35 percent.

Where can I get more information?

Aside from asking your health care professional, great resources include the American Stroke Association at www.strokeassociation.org, the National Stroke Association at www.stroke.org, and the American Heart Association at www.heart.org. You can also visit Womack Army Medical Centerís display area on Retiree Appreciation Day, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the second floor of the Clinic Mall at WAMC.

(Editorís note: The statistical information in this article was provided by the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2014 Update at http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/12/18/01.cir.0000441139.02102.80.)