CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Heather Morrill, 41, is the picture of good health and is always trying to lead a healthy lifestyle.
But only a few days before her 38th birthday and six weeks after having her third child, she had to be rushed to the hospital because she was having a stroke.
"It was the worst pain outside of child birth that I had experienced," Heather said.
Heather says she ignored the early signs of her stoke for five days. Heather says she never associated a stroke with extreme headache and nausea, and also felt because of her age she did not fit the bill for having one.
"No predisposition, no stoke in the family history, I don't smoke," Heather said."I was not overweight at the time, so not exactly the diagnosis I was expecting."
May is stroke awareness month and South Carolina has one of the highest rates of stroke and death in the nation. Dr. Christine Holmstedt is the Medical Director of Clinical Stroke Services at MUSC and says 80 percent of stokes are preventable.
Dr. Holmstedt says the key is getting checked yearly by your doctor and knowing three key numbers which include your blood pressure, cholesterol, and being checked for diabetes.
"If we can help prevent stokes by getting our risk factors modified, we could reduce the risk of several disabilities, long term disabilities and of course death," Dr. Holmestedt said.
In addition to knowing your numbers, it is also critical to know the signs of a stroke and the easiest way to remember is by using the acronym f-a-s-t or fast.
F- Stands for facial drooping
A - Arms - Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
S - Speech - Is their speech slurred?
T -Time to call 911 for help.
Dr. Holmstedt says time is of the essence when it comes to treating someone having a stroke.
"I did wait five days to seek help, so when something is not right we head to the doctor," Heather said."So that has changed my procrastination type of attitude to things in the past."
Dr. Holmestedt says you can lower your stoke chances by leading an active lifestyle and eating healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat and also by not smoking.