Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a major cause of disability in adults in the U.S. Stroke takes the lives of approximately 130,000 Americans each year and on average, one American dies from stroke every four minutes. These are startling statistics, but by acting FAST, at the first sign of stroke, you can greatly increase your chance of survival.

Here's what to do if you, or a loved one, are having a stroke:

Stroke Basics

A stroke occurs when a portion of the brain is deprived of oxygen or blood. That piece of the brain either dies or significantly malfunctions as a result. There are two major types of stroke. Roughly 85-87% of strokes are isechemic, commonly referred to as dry strokes, while 15 to 20% are hemorrhagic. In both instances, a portion of brain tissue is damaged by a lack of oxygen and blood flow, and that creates a stroke.

Stroke Warning Signs

When it comes to stroke, every minute counts. The sooner you get treated, the better your chance of survival and recovery.

Physicians like to give the medication within four hours of [stroke] onset, because we know it works better and the outcomes are better.

If someone is having a stroke, think and act F-A-S-T:

  • F-Face: Watch for facial drooping. Ask the person to smile and see if one side of the face droops.
  • A-Arms: Is their arm weak? Ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S-Speech: Look out for slurred speech. Ask them to repeat a simple phrase, such as: "The sky is blue." Can he or she do it?
  • T-Time: If you notice any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Even if the symptoms go away, still call for help.

Sometimes, severe headaches or vertigo (dizziness) can accompany a stroke but these symptoms aren't typical. However, a sudden change of vision associated with weakness may signal a stroke.

Be sure to note the time that symptoms first appeared. And don't try to drive yourself or a loved one to a hospital. Call for an ambulance so treatment can begin immediately.

Recognized for its outstanding stroke care, both Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside Hospital have been accredited by the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center. For the ninth year in a row, Coliseum Medical Centers has received "Get With the Guidelines" Certification in stroke by the American Heart Association. Coliseum Medical Centers' Inpatient Rehabilitation Center is the only Joint Commission certified Stroke Rehabilitation Center in the area.

To learn more about stroke or to take a free online stroke risk assessment, visit our website.

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com