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Bringing awareness to stroke symptoms

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Jeff Hurst is a lucky man, even though he suffered a stroke nearly eight months ago.

“I was visiting friends in California with my wife. We were out to dinner and realized I was having difficulty swallowing,” says Hurst.

Hurst is one of 7,000,000 stroke survivors in this country.  The odds of surviving are improving because of better clot busting drugs and an awareness of the symptoms.

In the U.S. strokes are a leading cause of death, killing nearly 130,000 people every year.  Strokes also cause serious long-term adult disability.

Hurst attributes his successful recovery to his wife and friends who insisted he get to a hospital immediately.

“In my mind, I was saying there’s nothing wrong because I didn’t feel any differently. Certainly I wasn’t in any discomfort or pain. The doctor asked me several times, 'Do you have a headache?' And I never did have any headache.”

American Senior Communities spokeswoman Ashley Marshall says knowing the signs of stroke could mean the difference between life and death for any number of patients. She also advocates comprehensive rehabilitation.

“Know the rules of FAST,” says Ashley.

Here they are: "F" stands for face.  Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? "A" stands for arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? "S" stands for speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange? And finally, "T" stands for time. If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Previous strokes, previous episodes of a mini stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, atrial fibrillation and carotid artery disease are medical risk factors for stroke.   These factors can be controlled and managed even if you have already had issues with any of them in the past. Smoking, obesity and drinking too much alcohol are all lifestyle factors.  You can control these factors by quitting smoking, exercising regularly, watching what and how much you eat and limiting alcohol consumption.

Two million brain cells die every minute during stroke, increasing the risk of permanent brain damage.  Control your risk factors and know the rules of fast.  It worked for Jeff Hurst.

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