Act F.A.S.T. and save lives.

According to the National Stroke Association, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability is stroke.

According to the “Ontario County: Community Health Assessment/Community Service Plan 2016-2018,” Ontario County has an age-adjusted cerebrovascular disease (stroke) mortality rate of 36.5 per 100,000, which is significantly higher than both the state rate (25.6) and the Finger Lakes region rate (33.5).

Before we dive into how to spot a stroke and how to possibly prevent one, we must first identify what a stroke is.

A stroke occurs when there is a block in blood flow to the brain, causing brain cells to die from oxygen deprivation. When these cells die, abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as memory and muscle control, are lost. The location of the stroke occurs affects its severity.

A person loses 1.9 million neurons every minute a stroke goes untreated and blood flow is blocked. Some symptoms include:

— abrupt numbness on one side of the body or weakness of face, arm or leg;

— trouble speaking or sudden confusion;

— not being able to see in one or both eyes;

— loss of balance or coordination; and

— headache with no known cause.

When you see the warning signs of a stroke, it’s critical that you act F.A.S.T., an easy way to assess the situation provided by the National Stroke Association.

Face: Ask the person to smile and see if one side of the face droops.

Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward.

Speech: Ask the person to say a simple phrase, and note if his or her speech is slurred.

Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

Remember, time is of the essence. Quickly recognizing one of these signs could help save someone's life. If you or a loved one experience any symptoms that identify as a stroke, do not hesitate to call 911. For more information, call the Stroke Help Line at 1-800-STROKES (787-6537) or visit www.stroke.org.

Several factors can cause a stroke, including lifestyle and medical conditions. Lifestyle risk factors include how you live your life, diet and physical activity.

Paying attention to these two things, in addition to refraining from excessive alcohol and tobacco use, can help decrease your risk of stroke.

Medical risk factors include family history, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc. Although these may be unavoidable, it’s important to be aware of your genetics. In addition, some risk factors, including age, gender, race and ethnicity, are unavoidable.

If you want to get involved to help raise awareness in your region, the Greater Rochester Heart Walk & Run will take place April 22 at Frontier Field and is sponsored by UR Medicine. This fundraiser fights heart disease and stroke. For more information, visit www2.heart.org

About this series

Chief Ken Beers is a 40-year veteran of the emergency medical services field and has led Canandaigua Emergency Squad since 2001. CES, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit unit that receives no tax-based support, responds to more than 5,000 calls per year in Ontario County and partners with the East Bloomfield Volunteer Ambulance. For more information, go to canandaiguaes.org. If you have questions or want to get involved, send emails to info@canandaigues.org.

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