Strokes affect more than 800,000 people every year and are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because of this, physicians and care providers know that the best strategy for minimal stroke damage is catching symptoms early. To catch the symptoms, it’s important to first know what to look for.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and it’s important to know that anyone could fall victim to stroke. However, those who smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs, or who are overweight are at a higher risk for stroke. A stroke can cause serious long-term disabilities such as paralysis or loss of muscle movement, difficulty talking or swallowing, as well as memory loss.

Here are six signs that you or someone you are with may be having a stroke. These are also known as the acronym BEFAST, as recommended by Vincent Truong, MD, medical director of the Loma Linda University Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center:

  • B-Dizziness or unstable balance
  • E-Sudden change in eyesight
  • F-Facial droop: face looks crooked
  • A-Arm is weak
  • S-Slurred speech
  • T-When the symptoms occurred, time to call 911

Time is of the essence if you have a stroke. Seek medical care immediately by calling 9-1-1.

For more information on the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Loma Linda University Medical Center, visit lomalindastroke.org.