You know how months have been given themes? special weeks and days? even mascots? Well, May has a bunch of them – some silly, some serious.  There are weeks in May devoted to nurses, wildflowers, bicycles, policemen and women and EMS personnel.  There are days – I kid you not – honoring  escargot (24th), chocolate chip cookies (15th) and lost socks (9th).  The insurance industry, of course, has gotten in on it, designating May ‘Disability Income Insurance Awareness’ month.  And it is also National Stroke Awareness Month.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US,  coming in just behind cancer and heart disease.  It is a leading cause of long-term disability.  On average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds in this country.  Women are more at risk for stroke than for breast cancer.

A registered nurse at the Orlando Regional Medical Center, Sarah Blizzard, called stroke “the proverbial monster under the bed” because, while we all know it’s there, we do not talk about it.  “People love talking about trauma and heart attacks, but not strokes”.

So let’s talk about it for a minute.  Strokes happen fast.  You have to act just as fast, or faster.  Here are the American Stroke Association‘s five major signs of stroke:

  1. Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  2. Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding
  3. Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  4. Trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance and coordination
  5. Severe headache with no known cause
Here’s the fast part:  If you see someone experiencing these symptoms, act F.A.S.T. (a simple test to check for strokes):
  • Face – ask them to smile.  Does one side drop?
  • Arms – ask them to raise both arms.  Are they even?
  • Speech – say a simple sentence and have them repeat it back.  Is the speech strange or slurred?
  • Time – see any of these signs?  Call 9-11 immediately.
(Special thanks to Euna Lhee at

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