[Lecanto, Fla.] — The Florida Department of Health in Citrus County (DOH-Citrus)
recognizes May as Stroke Awareness Month, an observance that highlights the importance of
knowing the risk factors, symptoms, and prevention of stroke. Nationally as well as for Florida,
stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a major cause of serious disability for adults.
Although stroke risk increases with age, a stroke can happen at any age.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain and occurs when the
blood supply is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and
nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. Early action can reduce brain damage and other
“Having a stroke is a medical emergency. Recognizing warning signs and seeking prompt
treatment is important,” says Ernesto “Tito” Rubio, Administrator for DOH-Citrus. Those who
have concerns about their health factors should talk to their doctor. “Taking preventive steps,
such as maintaining a healthy weight, can be key to stopping strokes before they start.”
Know the Warning Signs of a Stroke
The most important part of getting timely treatment for a stroke is to know and understand the
warning signs as described by the B.E. F.A.S.T. acronym.
B – Balance
Is the person suddenly having trouble with balance or coordination?
E – Eyes
Is the person experiencing suddenly blurred or double vision or a sudden loss of vision in one or
both eyes without pain?
F – Face
Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
A – Arms
Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech
Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to
repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T – Time
If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get
them to the hospital immediately.
Take Action to Lower Risk of Having a Stroke
The most effective way to lower the risk of having a stroke is to prevent one from happening in
the first place. Risk factors for stroke that can be changed, treated, or medically managed
- High Blood Pressure. Blood pressure of 140/90 or higher can damage blood vessels
(arteries) that supply blood to the brain. Make sure to get medical treatment if it is high.
- Diabetes. People with unmanaged diabetes are at greater risk for a stroke than
someone without diabetes. To prevent stroke, people with diabetes should control blood
glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight.
- Smoking. You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by stopping smoking. Smoking
can damage blood vessels as well as the heart and lead to other health diseases that
can impact stroke risk.
- Unhealthy Diet. A healthy diet is one of the best tools for fighting stroke. Incorporating
more fruits and veggies into your diet and decreasing your salt intake to less than 1,500
mg a day is a great start to healthier eating.
- High Blood Cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can contribute to thickening or
hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) caused by a buildup of plaque. By controlling
their cholesterol, a person is giving their arteries the best chance to remain clear of
- Lack of Exercise. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day, five days a week.
But even 10 minutes of exercise a day offers health benefits.
- Excessive alcohol use. More than 2 drinks per day may raise a person’s blood
pressure. Binge drinking can lead to stroke.
- Excess Weight. Obesity increases your risk for stroke. Losing weight can help lower
your blood pressure and reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and
About the Florida Department of Health
The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to
protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state,
county, and community efforts.