CHICAGO (WLS) -- The death of Oscar-nominated filmmaker John Singleton at 51 years old is shining a light on an alarming statistic that those in the medical community know all too well.
"For us in the medical field it is not shocking a full third of stroke happens in patients under 65," said Dr. Babak Jahromi, a professor of neurosurgery at Northwestern Medicine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention African Americans are twice as risk of having a stroke and they're more likely to die from it than white Americans.
"We lose so many men and women but especially black men at that early age," said Dr. Linda Rae Murray, a public health expert.
Doctors say there's need to be more research to find out why.
"It's not clear. One of the biggest causes is probably high blood pressure," Dr. Jahromi said.
Dr. Murray says race plays a factor.
"Being a black person in this country with its history of racism and its everyday stresses and strains that people undergo is one of the reasons why we have twice the rate of high blood pressure," she said.
About two years ago, Quentin Washington, who is African American, suffered two mild strokes. He was 38 years old.
"I felt a sensation come down the middle of my head, like a numbness," he said.
Doctors say the most common stroke symptoms included face drooping, arm weakness and slurred speech. If you observe any of the signs, you're advised to get help right away.
"A large vessel stroke, the brain is dying at two million brain cells per minute. That's a lot. Every minute counts," Dr. Jahromi said.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing about 140,000 Americans each year, according to the CDC. It's the leading cause of disability.
Washington considers himself blessed that he doesn't have any long term effects.
He encourages everyone to pay attention to the warning signs.
"Life is precious. While we all have an appointed day to meet the Lord. I do believe that we ought to strive to try be here as long as we can and try to take care of our bodies the best we can," Washington said.