(WETM) – May is National Stroke Awareness Month.

Abbas Kharal, MD, a neurologist with Cleveland Clinic, emphasizes it’s a good time to remind people about the signs and symptoms of a stroke and that anyone can have one – even younger people. 

“No age group is immune to having strokes, and we’re surprisingly seeing a significant rise in strokes in young adults,” Dr. Kharal said. 

A stroke occurs when there is an issue with blood flow to part of the brain – whether that be due to a lack of blood supply or bleeding in the brain. 

Dr. Kharal said it’s important to remember the acronym ‘FAST’ to recognize some of the symptoms of a stroke.

‘F’ is for face drooping, ‘A’ is for arm weakness, ‘S’ is for speech difficulty and ‘T’ is a reminder that it’s time to call 911.

It’s critical to seek immediate medical attention as strokes can cause permanent brain damage or death if treatment is delayed. 

According to Dr. Kharal, younger people who experience stroke symptoms will sometimes put off getting help because they think it’s something less serious.

He said lifestyle choices may be one of the reasons why more people under 50 are having strokes.

“Particularly in younger adults, we’re seeing a significant rise in premature atherosclerosis, which is hardening and blockages in blood vessels. That is specifically believed to be due to a rise in the vascular risk factors of stroke in younger patients,” Dr. Kharal said. “We’re seeing the incidence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes occurring now in younger patients in their late 20s into their early 30s. These diseases have traditionally been attributed to a much older population.”

There are several other factors that can lead to stroke, including clotting disorders, structural heart disease, blood vessel abnormalities – including inflammatory and genetic blood vessel disorders – and recreational drug use. 

Dr. Kharal said that living a healthy lifestyle and keeping up with annual doctor visits can reduce a person’s risk of having a stroke.