On average, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies from a stroke every 3 minutes and 33 seconds. There are, however, ways you can minimize your risk that will improve your overall health at the same time.

First, avoid smoking and excessive drinking. Everyone knows cigarette smoking is bad for your lungs, but it is also a huge factor in increasing your chances of having a stroke. So stop smoking to lower your risk. Your primary care physician can advise you about programs that will help you quit. Smoking is also bad for your lungs, so quitting is a win-win option.

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one. Excessive drinking can also cause you to put on weight, which is another risk factor for having a stroke.

A healthy diet is a must. Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and high in fiber to help avoid high cholesterol. Limiting salt can help lower your blood pressure. High cholesterol levels and high blood pressure increase your chance of having a stroke.

Stay as active as possible. Physical activity can help lower your weight, cholesterol level and blood pressure.

You should also recognize the signs of a stroke by remembering the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T.

♦ Balance — Is the person experiencing sudden loss of balance or coordination?

♦ Eyes — Is the person having a sudden change in vision or trouble seeing?

♦ Face Drooping — Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?

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

♦ Speech — Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.

♦ Time to Call 9-1-1 — If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

If you do have a stroke, Polk Medical Center is ready to respond. Polk has been recognized as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association. That means we have the expertise to make sure you get the care you need.

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