A stroke is a medical emergency. It can be debilitating and even life-threatening.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 140,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year.The CDC reports it is the fifth leading cause of death.Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a stroke is crucial. Quick intervention is important to minimize brain damage and even death.A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is compromised. This can be a result of blockage in the blood vessel or if a blood vessel in the brain bursts.If the blood supply is disrupted, the brain cannot get enough vital oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to die.There are some risk factors that people cannot control to reduce their chance of having a stroke. Age, race and family history are a few examples.The risk factors people can control include being overweight, an inactive lifestyle, use of tobacco products, or a tendency to drink heavily.Medical conditions that increase the odds of a stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and sickle cell. It is important to work with a primary care physician to control these conditions and/or try to eliminate them.The best way to prevent a stroke is to make healthy lifestyle choices: ◾Get at least seven hours of quality sleep every night. ◾Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. ◾Aim for one 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly, two to three strength training sessions weekly and 10,000 steps in your day. ◾Avoid tobacco. ◾Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.Know the signs and symptoms of a stroke. By knowing the signs and symptoms, people can react quickly.Signs of stroke include: ◾Numbness, weakness or inability to move parts of the face, arms or legs, particularly on one side ◾Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding others ◾Vision problems in one or both eyes ◾Difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination ◾Severe headache with no causeIf you think you or someone else is having a stroke, quick action is crucial. Minutes matter to improve the outcome of a person experiencing a stroke.Use FAST to remember the warning signs and help to know what to do: ◾F -- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? ◾A -- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? ◾S -- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange? ◾T -- Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.Editor's note: For more information about stroke, visit https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/index.htm or go to http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/recognizing-stroke/act-fast