LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Doctors at the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurology report a significant increase in strokes during the holiday season, especially on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Dr. Patrick D. Lyden, chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurology, said the holidays come with an increased risk of strokes, one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. In fact, he said the number of stroke cases treated at Cedars-Sinai rises from 80 to 100 cases per month during the winter months.

Lyden attributed the annual surge to holiday stress, sleep deprivation, dehydration, smoking, overindulging and seasonal colds and influenza, as well as changes in barometric pressure and lower temperatures.

“Holiday strokes can be an unexpected and even fatal problem because they often arrive with little warning,” the doctor said. “The good news, however, is that with advanced tools and technology available to us, we may prevent life-threatening complications and even reverse the effects of a stroke if we administer treatment within six hours.”

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the country and a leading cause of disability, according to the American Stroke Association. To recognize symptoms, experts recommend memorizing the acronym “FAST.”

FAST stands for:

Face (drooping of the face); Arm (arm weakness); Speech (slurred speech); and Time (every second counts, so call 911 immediately).

“Studies show that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented,” Lyden said. “But if it occurs, the key is calling 911 … Every minute a stroke is untreated, the average patient loses about 1.9 million brain cells.”

To reduce the risk of stroke, Lyden recommended that people reduce their stress levels, eat and drink in moderation, be vigilant about taking prescribed medications, exercise, stop smoking and get enough rest.

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