February is Heart Month and the American Heart Association is hoping you study up on the risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

A local woman didn't know the risk factors and became one of the 730,000 people in the United States to suffer a stroke last year.

Fifty-one-year-old Sarah Stanaland is a new woman these days, in several ways.

About two months ago, she had a stroke that changed her life forever. "I had left work and was between my car and all of the sudden, my vision just went double and I thought, something is wrong here,” she said.

Sstanaland had warning signs in the past, but chose to ignore them, basically because she didn't know they were warning signs. "They were both a jagged line in front of my vision and I realize now they were warning signs," she adds.

Stanaland had the presence of mind to call her husband and get help. "They got me to Bay Medical and they took me right in. They gave me a shot, but I knew something was wrong."

About four hours later, it was determined Stanaland had suffered a stroke.

That’s when Neurologist, Dr. Mustafa Hamad entered her life. "Stroke is defined as sudden onset of the loss of function," he explains. “The function is localized as a specific area of the brain that is supplied by specific blood vessels."

Unfortunately, strokes are very common in the United States.

It is the third leading cause of death in the country and the third leading cause of serious disability.

About 730,000 people suffer from a stroke every year in the U.S.; 160,000 of them die.

The cost of healthcare due to stroke is $56.8 billion dollars a year.

There are risk factors you can do something about and others you can't.

Non-modifiable risk factors are basically age; the older we get the more likely we'll have a stroke.

Gender: Males are more common to have stroke.

Race: African American and Hispanic; the disease is more prevalent in them.

These are non modifiable, and of course genetics.

Then we have modifiable risk factors. Those include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, carotid artery disease, which are the two main arteries that supply the brain, and prior strokes are all risk factors.

Having a stroke was pretty much a wake up call for Stanaland. “I could not even stand up,” she recalls. “I could not even feed myself without getting everything down the front of me. I could not even brush my teeth. I just remember thinking; I don't want to be like this again.”

Quick action, getting her to the hospital and getting the help she needed will ultimately lead to a full recovery.

"My brain works faster than my mouth, so I have to talk real slow," Stanaland says. "I still have double vision, like half way down, but Dr. Hamad says I will make a complete recovery.”

She is determined to make the lifestyle changes needed to keep from having another stroke.

"I haven't touched, well I just lied, I have touched the first piece of chocolate, but I don't eat it constantly like I did,” she says. “I've dropped 15 pounds; um, I have a newfound joy for life."

Stanaland’s warning to you: know the warning signs. If you see anything before your eyes, or if you have numbness or tingling, it's well worth a doctor’s visit.

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