Dr. Rachel: How to recognize a stroke — before it’s too late

NEW ORLEANS -- Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and they kill once every four minutes.

Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke.  It is the 5th leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in people in the U.S.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel, carrying oxygen to your brain, gets blocked by a clot which prevents blood flow to that part of your brain. This is called an ischemic stroke and accounts for 87% of all strokes.

A stroke can also occur if a blood vessel ruptures in your brain.  This is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

People develop a sudden severe headache, described this as "the worst headache of their life." When an area of your brain loses its blood flow, those brain cells die very quickly and that area of your brain loses its function.

But people can recover from what our teaching doctor, Dr. Rachel, calls "brain attacks," if they seek help in a timely manner.

How do you recognize the signs of a stroke before it's too late?

The American Heart Association uses the mnemonic FAST to recognize the signs of a stroke:

F- Face dropping
A- arm weakness
S- Slurred speech
T- Time to call 911

Please memorize the signs of a stroke and get to an emergency room ASAP if someone shows any one of them.

You need to get treatment within 3 hours of having a stroke for the best chance of recovery and survival, ideally at a hospital that is a Certified Primary Stroke Center because they have a stroke team on call 24-7.

Do you have a medical questions? You can ask Dr. Rachel on her Facebook and Twitter pages.