May is American Stroke Awareness Month

GENESEE COUNTY — Like many African-American men, Frank Bell had a long family history of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. It wasn’t too surprising that he would spend most of his adult life trying to keep his blood pressure in check with medication.

Those same family genes would also play a crucial role in his stroke at the age of 56.

“I was in the hospital for about a month, but can’t remember two weeks of it,” explained Frank. “My recovery has gone well and I continue to get better each day.”

Stroke has made headlines recently as it fell from the No. 3 killer of Americans to No. 5, but it’s still the leading cause for disability. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced. This deprives your brain of oxygen and nutrients, which can cause your brain cells to die. The more brain cells that are lost, the more likely you are to have lasting disabilities from the stroke. This is why it’s vital to get help at the first signs of a stroke.

Alarmingly, 25 percent of Americans do not know any stroke warning signs. That is why the American Heart Association uses the F.A.S.T. acronym to increase stroke warning signs awareness.

F — Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A — Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S — Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T — Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Recognizing and responding to a stroke emergency immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment, which can lessen the effects of the stroke and may even save a life.

“I know stroke survivors that think their recovery is too difficult or is not moving fast enough, but our bodies change and you have to learn to adapt. You also have to dedicate yourself to your recovery. So I exercise at the ‘Y’ and golf a lot.” Frank also stays active by regularly walking and running.

Go to to learn more about stroke and how you can lessen your risk factors. — G.G.

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