When it comes to stroke, knowing the warning signs could help save your life or the life of someone you love.A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked. It is an attack on the brain, much like a heart attack is an attack on the heart. In both cases, blood flow is blocked.“Strokes happen quickly and unexpectedly,” says Dr. Robert McMichael, independently practicing neurologist on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “That is why it is so important to know the warning signs.”The acronym “FAST” is a good way to remember the signs and symptoms of stroke: • Face – Does one side of the face droop? • Arms – Is one arm weak or numb? • Speech – Is speech slurred? • Time – Time is critical — act fast. “If a person has any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately,” says McMichael.Additional symptoms of stroke include:• Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg• Sudden vision change• Sudden speech problems• Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements • Sudden problems with walking or balance • Sudden severe headache that is different from past headaches. There are many different types of strokes, and different types of strokes are treated differently.“Every minute counts,” says McMichael. “It is very important to get to the hospital, have tests done quickly and initiate the best treatment available.”How a stroke affects the patient depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than two-thirds of survivors will have some type of disability.You can help to help prevent strokes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle: • Quit smoking.• Eat a healthy diet, which includes plenty of fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber grains and olive oil. Eat less salt too. • Do moderate activity at least 2 1⁄2 hours a week. • Maintain a healthy weight. • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. • Keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. • Limit alcohol. Women should not have more than one drink a day, and men should not have more than two drinks a day.• Take a daily aspirin or other medicines if your doctor advises it. “While it may seem overwhelming to make many changes at once, small improvements can make a big difference in your overall health,” says McMichael.Don’t take good health for granted. See your physician and discuss your risks for stroke and ways to stay healthy. Prevention is our best defense against stroke.The Joint Commission has designated Methodist Mansfield Medical Center as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center. The Joint Commission’s Certificate of Distinction for Primary Stroke Centers recognizes centers that make exceptional efforts to improve outcomes for stroke patients. It is the best signal to the community that the quality care the hospital provides is effectively managed to meet the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients. Methodist Mansfield is the only Advanced Primary Stroke Center in the Mansfield area, and it has also received Cycle IV Chest Pain Center designation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. Medical professionals at Methodist Mansfield are trained in stroke and heart attack care and handle emergencies 24/7.For more information on stroke care at Methodist Health System and Methodist Mansfield, visit MethodistHealthSystem.org/Stroke. Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System or Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.