How to survive a stroke

When you survive a brush with death, you usually get to celebrate -- and some folks even take a victory lap after beating a killer disease like cancer, traveling the world and checking items off their bucket list.

But when you survive a stroke, you might not be so lucky.

Stroke is one of the nation's leading killers, right behind heart disease and cancer -- but that's not all it is. It's also the single biggest cause of long-term disability in American adults.

You don't have to be one of them.

May is American Stroke Month, and a chance to go over some basics -- because too many people don't know the symptoms of a stroke and don't know what to do when they experience them.

Some wait hours... even days... before seeking help.

But when it comes to a stroke, time isn't on your side.

Every minute you let your stroke go untreated, two million brain cells die. Wait 10 minutes, and that's 20 million brain cells.

Wait an hour, and that's 120 million of them... gone forever.

Fortunately, your brain is pretty resilient and can handle this damage for short periods, which is why people who are treated for stroke within three hours are much less likely to suffer permanent disability.

So here's what to look for -- because if you wait, that damage becomes impossible to reverse, and it could be deadly.

First, there are the classic "Hollywood"; symptoms of a stroke. Part of your face droops, and you could start to slur and/or talk nonsense. You could find yourself confused, and have problems understanding others just as they have a hard time with your slurred speech.

Another big warning sign is numbness. In some cases, it's the numbness that can cause your face to droop. In others, it's an arm or a leg. Some folks even feel as if one whole side of the body has been injected with Novocain.

Sudden vision problems... sudden troubles walking... sudden dizziness and balance trouble... and a sudden lack of coordination could all be signs of a stroke.

And some stroke patients suffer a monster headache out of the blue.

The key with nearly all of these symptoms is that they come on suddenly and with no apparent cause.

If you find yourself facing those problems, call 911 ASAP if you can, and make sure your loved ones know the signs so they can call if you're unable to. Even if you're not sure, do it anyway -- because every minute counts.

You can print this article out and stick it to your fridge so you know the warning signs, and of course feel free to forward it to your friends so they know, too.

It's not just your life on the line. It's the QUALITY of your life -- and if you take quick action after a stroke, you could have a chance to live well enough to get out and start checking items off your own bucket list.