National Stroke Awareness Month is quickly coming to a close, but it’s hoped that the lessons learned will last long beyond the end of May. Patty Clements, senior communications director, American Heart Association, Nashville, says brain damage can mount with each passing minute, so it’s vital to know the warning signs, which can easily be remembered with the acronym “FAST.” “‘F’ is for face. Is your face drooping or feeling numb? ‘A’ is for arm weakness. ‘S’ is for speech difficulty. If you have any one of these symptoms, ‘T’ is it’s time to call 911,” Clements explains. Among the number of ways to reduce risk for stroke are quitting smoking, getting regular exercise and eating healthy meals, she adds. All of those lifestyle changes can help reduce high blood pressure, which is the number one controllable risk factor. “If you lower your top number by 10 or your bottom number by five, you can cut your risk of stroke in half,” she says. “So that is the number one thing to look at. Go get a blood pressure check. Any pharmacy is going to have a free blood pressure cuff at this point. Check it out.” In Tennessee, stroke takes more than 3,000 lives every year and is one of the leading causes of severe disability. More information is available at www.strokeassociation.org.