ST. CLOUD -- A stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and local health officials are providing helpful tips on how you can reduce your risk.

May is Stroke Awareness Month. A stroke is caused when a blood vessel carrying oxygen to the brain is blocked by a clot or ruptures.

Erica Klimmek is a Certified Nurse Practitioner with CentraCare Health. She says to act 'FAST' at the first sign of a stroke.

The "F" stands for facial weakness, "A" is for arm weakness or leg weakness would be the same, "S" is for if their speech is thick or slurred and "T" is for time to call 911.

Approximately 795,000 people experience a new or recurring stroke each year, killing nearly 130,000 of them.

Klimmek says leading a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk factors for a stroke so it's important to check with your doctor on a routine basis to see if you are at risk.

There is certain diseases that can put you at risk for a stroke. Sometimes it can be elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes those types of diseases can cause some wear on the vessels.

She says there is no age discrimination when it comes to strokes and treatment may be available if you get to the emergency room immediately upon recognizing the symptoms.

If not caught right away there can be long term damages as a result of a stroke such as speech problems, paralysis and emotional difficulties.

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