Newsroom National Stroke Awareness Month: Know the warning signs Posted on May 2, 2017 May is National Stroke Awareness Month and CoxHealth wants to remind everyone about the warning signs of stroke, which is an attack that cuts off vital blood and oxygen to the brain.The acronym FAST is used to detect stroke symptoms, which stands for Face, Arm, Speech, Time. Does the FACE appear to be drooping or does it feel tingly? Is the ARM weak or numb? Speech slurred? If so, it’s TIME to call 911 because stroke is a medical emergency.“Immediate attention could be the difference between life and death,” says Lacy Fears, RN and stroke coordinator at Cox Branson. “Waiting to receive care for a stroke means more brain cells die. The likelihood of a stroke being stopped decreases every minute you wait to get help.”In fact, two million brain cells could die every minute a patient goes without treatment. However, things can be done to control the damage: A medication called tPA can bust up clots and help a patient recover more quickly, but only if they are treated within three hours of the first symptom. After that, there is a substantial increase in risk of death or permanent disability.What causes a stroke? Fears says a huge risk factor is smoking, which can double a person’s chances of having a one. Diets high in fat – potentially causing high cholesterol – also increase the risk. “Quit smoking, remain active, eat a heart-healthy diet and check your blood pressure regularly,” says Fears. “Keep your doctor’s appointments, listen to your healthcare providers’ instructions and take medication exactly as prescribed.”In Missouri, paramedics are required to take stroke patients to a designated stroke center for care. Cox Medical Center South in Springfield is a Level 1 Stroke Center, and Cox Medical Center Branson is a Level 2. The main difference is that a Level 1 center has in-house neurology, and the capability to perform surgical intervention. A Level 2 center has access to those same specialists via a web-based server, but do not perform brain surgeries.A quiz to find out your risk for stroke is available at coxhealth.com.