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You probably know that a stroke can have serious, life-altering consequences. You probably also know that with a stroke, time is of the essence. But do you know how to prevent a stroke from even occurring?

If you're like many Americans, the answer is no. According to a recent poll, 17 percent of adults older than age 50 could not name a single stroke symptom. Knowledge is power, so read on to find out how you could save your life or the life of someone you love.

Although many risk factors, such as your age and family history, cannot be controlled, many can be reduced or eliminated. Here are some things you can do to help prevent a stroke.

• Stop smoking.

• Eat food low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

• Exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week.

• Control blood pressure.

• Keep diabetes under control.

• Treat heart disease with a healthy diet, exercise and medication if necessary.

After prevention, the next best thing you can do to protect yourself is to become stroke smart by learning its signs. They include:

• Numbness, weakness, or paralysis of arm, leg or face -- especially on one side of the body

• Blurred or decreased vision in one or both eyes

• Difficulty speaking or understanding simple statements

• Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking

• A sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you experience these symptoms or notice these signs in someone else, call 911 immediately.

Minutes matter

When someone is having a stroke, time is of the essence. The most common type of stroke can be treated with a clot-busting drug called t-PA. The drug t-PA can help reduce the disabling effects of a stroke by breaking up the clot and restoring blood flow to the brain.

To be effective, t-PA must be given within three hours from the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, the average stroke patient doesn't seek help until 12 hours after the stroke begins -- long after the time limit for treatment with t-PA has come and gone. If you experience symptoms of a stroke or see the signs in someone else, call 911 immediately. Every second counts when you're saving your life or the life of someone you love.

The emergency room at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is here for you and your family 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Through the AR SAVES program, SSRH uses a high-speed video communications system to help provide immediate, life-saving treatments to stroke patients 24 hours a day. The real-time video communication enables a stroke neurologist to evaluate whether emergency room physicians should use a powerful blood-clot dissolving agent within the critical three-hour period following the first signs of a stroke. To learn more about our services, visit NorthwestHealth.com today.

About Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is a 73 licensed-bed facility with 42 private patient rooms. It is accredited by the State of Arkansas Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission. Some services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, medical, surgical and intensive care units, obstetrics, outpatient diagnostic services and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. With more than 50 physicians on the medical staff, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital provides compassionate, customer-focused care. SSRH is an affiliate of Northwest Health, the largest health system in Northwest Arkansas. Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is located at 603 N. Progress Ave. in Siloam Springs. For more information, visit NorthwestHealth.com.

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