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Missourians are encouraged to know the signs of a stroke during May, American Stroke Month.

Minutes matter when a stroke occurs.

Knowing how to recognize a stroke emergency is a key factor in getting a victim life-saving medical attention quickly, according to an American Stroke Association/American Heart Association news release.

The acronym "FAST" can be used to remember the most common signs of stroke.

Face drooping is a common sign. One side of the face may seem to sag. Ask the person to smile. Does the smile look uneven?

Arm weakness on one side is oftentimes a symptom of stroke. Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one arm drops down lower than the other.

Speech difficulty can manifest itself through slurred speech. If the person is unable to speak or hard to understand, ask them to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue."

Time to call 911. Seconds matter if someone has any of these symptoms. Even if symptoms go away, the victim needs to reach a hospital immediately.

And check the time, so if a doctor asks, you'll know when symptoms appeared.

Up to 80 percent of strokes may be prevented through healthy habits and diet. Smoking is considered the No. 1 risk factor for stroke. It causes several conditions, including high blood pressure.

High blood pressure causes more strokes than any other condition. Of the 116.4 million Americans with high blood pressure, less than half manage it. Lowering blood pressure by 20 points could cut risk of death resulting from a stroke by half.

Physical activity — about 150 hours per week — can significantly reduce the risk of stroke.

Healthy eating habits reduce risk of stroke.

Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of stroke. People who maintain healthy weight levels reduce their risks of heart disease and stroke.

Control LDL cholesterol to reduce the risk of stroke. LDL — the bad cholesterol — can cause buildups and blood clots in the blood stream. Add food with omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and nuts to your diet to help manage bad cholesterol.

One in four stroke survivors has a second stroke. If you've had a stroke, it's important to work with your doctor on a plan to reduce secondary stroke factors. Lifestyle changes and medications, such as an aspirin regimen — which may not be appropriate for everyone — may help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk.

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