(NewsUSA) - Each year 780,000 Americans suffer a stroke. It is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. Yet many Americans do not know the symptoms or what to do when they witness someone having a stroke. The following information is provided to you by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

"Stroke is an unmistakable event. Few other medical conditions come on so suddenly or are so noticeable to a bystander," said Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., deputy director, NINDS. "For this reason, it is critical that people know to call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital to receive appropriate medical treatment immediately when a stroke occurs. Prompt treatment can dramatically decrease or even prevent long-term disabilities caused by a stroke."

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or if bleeding occurs in or around the brain. Brain cells die when deprived of oxygen and nutrients provided by blood. Because stroke injures the brain, if you are having a stroke, you may not realize what is happening. But, to a bystander, the signs of a stroke are distinct:

* Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)

* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech

* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination

* Sudden severe headache with no known cause

In treating a stroke, every minute counts. Treatments are available that greatly reduce the damage caused by a stroke. But you need to arrive at the hospital within 60 minutes after symptoms start in order to receive some treatments. Knowing the symptoms of a stroke, making note of the time of the first stroke symptoms and getting to the hospital quickly can help you act in time to save yourself -- or someone you know -- from serious long-term disability.

Making changes in your lifestyle can help prevent stroke. The NINDS, part of the National Institutes of Health, is dedicated to research and education on the causes and treatments and prevention of stroke. Risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, heart disease, family history of stroke, high cholesterol, and being overweight. Talk to your doctor and let him or her know about the concerns you may have about the risk factors of stroke. Find out your risks and take action.

More information on stroke is available from the NINDS.

Order free materials by calling 1-800-352-9424 or by visiting www.stroke.nih.gov.