Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL – May is National Stroke Awareness Month.

“Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and a leading cause of disability,” said Jose Biller, MD, chair of Loyola’s Department of Neurology and a nationally known stroke specialist. “Stroke can happen to anyone at any age.”

Dr. Biller said people can significantly reduce their risk of stroke by controlling risk factors including tobacco and alcohol use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, transient ischemic attacks (mini strokes), diabetes, obesity and heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation.

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Brain cells begin to die.

It’s critically important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and to call 911 right away. “Time is brain,” Dr. Biller said. “Prompt treatment potentially can reduce stroke damage significantly.”

Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy if you remember to think FAST:F. Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?A. Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?S. Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?T. Time. If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1.

For six years in a row, Loyola University Medical Center has won the Get with the Guidelines® - Stroke Gold Plus Qualify Achievement Award from the American Heart Association. U.S. News & World Report ranks Loyola as a high-performing hospital in Neurology and Neurosurgery. Loyola has been certified by the Joint Commission as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center.