The myths about strokes are numerous. Among the most popular \u2014 and perhaps one of the most dangerous \u2014 is that strokes are something that happens only to older adults.\nIn fact, a recent report by the American Stroke Association showed a sharp rise in hospitalizations among men and women ages 15 to 44, while rates declined by 25 percent among older adults.\nLowering your risk is the best way to avoid the life-changing impact strokes can have on you and your family. When strokes occur, fast action is critical to minimize damage. The window of opportunity for the most successful treatment is just three hours after onset.\nPrevention: What You Can Do\n“Heart disease increases your chances of having a stroke, so it’s important to control the risk factors,” says Lawrence Wechsler, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology at UPMC.\nWhile you can’t do anything about your age, family history, or ethnicity (African-Americans have a higher incidence of stroke), you can control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking.\n“You’re at risk any time your blood pressure or cholesterol are up. It’s far better to prevent strokes than to deal with the consequences,” Dr. Wechsler says.\nTreatment: Time Lost is Brain Lost\nEvery minute after the start of a stroke means greater risk of permanent damage or death. One of the best treatments for ischemic strokes \u2014 where a clot blocks blood flow to the brain \u2014 is the quick administration of the clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA). While UPMC doctors have had success beyond three hours with a special procedure to retrieve the blockage or dissolve it with drugs administered directly into the clot, time is critical.\nFor patients experiencing hemorrhagic strokes caused by bleeding in the brain, fast action is needed to repair the leaking blood vessel.\nCall 911\nIf you suspect someone has suffered a stroke, call for emergency medical help immediately so treatment can begin without delay.\nSpecialized stroke centers \u2014 such as UPMC’s Stroke Institute at UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Shadyside, UPMC St. Margaret, and UPMC Mercy \u2014 have experts available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to diagnose and treat patients. The UPMC Stroke Telemedicine Program also uses technology to provide fast treatment to patients at other UPMC hospitals throughout western Pennsylvania.\nThink FAST\nUse this simple acronym to help determine whether you’re witnessing a stroke:\nF ace: Can the person smile (or does one side of the face droop)?\nA rms: Can the person raise both arms (or does one side drift downward)?\n\nS peech: Can the person speak clearly or repeat a simple phrase?\nT ime: Call 911 immediately if someone exhibits any of these warning signs!\nAct FAST\nStrokes require immediate medical attention, so knowing the warning signs is crucial, says William Kristan, MD, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UPMC Passavant. Stroke symptoms can include sudden onset of:\n\nParalysis or weakness in the face or limbs, especially on one side of the body\nProblems with balance or walking\nVision problems\nSlurred speech\nConfusion\nProblems speaking or understanding\nSevere headache\n\nFor more information on stroke diagnosis and management, contact the\u00a0UPMC Stroke Institute\u00a0to schedule an appointment or ask a question at 412-232-8840.