As May, which is National Stroke Awareness Month, reaches its second half,  St. Cloud Regional Medical Center is asking the public to look at their stroke risk factors and learn the warning signs of a stroke before it happens.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.

The top risk factors are atrial fibrillation (heart arrhythmia) and untreated high blood pressure. The acronym FAST is an easy way to identify the most common symptoms of a stroke:

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 sentence. Is their speech slurred?

T – Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

St. Cloud Regional Medical Center, named a Primary Stroke Center just over a year ago, has a stroke care team that delivers potentially life-saving care for ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes and can perform different treatment options. St. Cloud Regional Medical Center has the technology, infrastructure, staff, and training to receive and treat patients of all ages who come to the facility presenting a stroke.

At arrival, those who present with stroke symptoms are rapidly evaluated by a stroke team and a neurologist. A CT scan will determine the diagnosis and best treatment plan.

Orlando Health, which has acquired St. Cloud Regional Medical Center and is expected to close that deal this summer, is an industry leader in comprehensive stroke care and inpatient/outpatient rehabilitation. St. Cloud Regional will become its third Primary Stroke Center in the region, with others in Orange and Seminole counties.