HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The month of May is Stroke Awareness month and Valley Baptist’s neuroscience institute is making sure the community is aware of stroke prevention and care throughout the year.

Dr. Ameer Hassan, the head of the neuroscience department for the Valley Baptist Neuroscience Institute, said the Valley has a younger average age of stroke patients compared to the rest of the country.

“We’ve had toddlers who have had strokes. Whether they’ve had sickle cell anemia or some sort of rare blood disorder and then we’ve had a 101-year-old who was golfing and had a stroke. So, we’ve really treated the spectrum,” said Dr. Hassan.

He explained that the average age for strokes in the U.S. is 70, but in the valley, it is reduced by a decade because of common health conditions in the area, such as diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Hassan said stroke prevention is key and diet and exercise play a big factor.

“Aggressive exercise, walking, swimming, power walking for 30 minutes a day. That really decreases your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack,” he said.

He added that reducing the consumption of red meat and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables in your diet can help.

Dr. Hassan said that the department has state-of-the-art equipment that is used to work with stroke patients.

“First thing after Cath Lab, after we pull out these clots or we do any sort of interventional treatment in your brain, we’re going to take you to our neuro ICU. Our neuro ICU is a 14-bed expansion that just opened up last month and it’s got all types of telemetry, EG monitoring, you won’t miss anything in a unit like that,” he said.

He said recognizing the signs of a stroke is important and the term “BE FAST” is important to remember.

“B was for balance, if you’re having balance problems and you really can’t walk straight and you feel like the room is spinning or something is going wrong that’s probably a sign to come into the hospital. Any eye problems, double or blurry vision, having like a curtain coming over your eye. Then the FAST the classic fast is face weakness, arm or leg weakness, “S” was for slurred speech, and “T” was time to call 9-1-1,” he explained.

He said it’s important for the community to know the acronym to make a difference in someone’s life.