The American Heart Association and National Stroke Association urge everyone to participate this May in American Stroke Awareness Month by taking time to learn about warning signs and ways to prevent this often deadly and debilitating disease.
• Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease that occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts.
• Stroke is an emergency and a brain attack, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
• In the United States, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, killing over 133,000 people each year – one every four minutes.
• Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability.
• Approximately 795,000 strokes will occur this year, one occurring every 40 seconds. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes and an estimated 185,000 people who survive a stroke go on to have another in their lifetime.
• Stroke can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age, although more women than men have a stroke each year, and African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with whites.
• Women are twice as likely to die from stroke than breast cancer annually.
Types of Stroke
• Ischemic stroke occurs when arteries are blocked by blood clots or by the gradual build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits. About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic.
• Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks leaking blood into the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for thirteen percent of all strokes, yet are responsible for more than thirty percent of all stroke deaths.
• In addition, there are transient ischemic strokes (TIA) or “mini strokes” with stroke symptoms that lasts less than 24 hours before disappearing. While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are a serious warning sign of stroke; up to 40 percent of all people who suffer a TIA will go on to experience a stroke.The prevalence of TIA’s increases with age.
Time is of the essence when it comes to a stroke. Two million brain cells die every minute during stroke, increasing risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death. Recognizing symptoms and acting FAST to get medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities.
Know the signs of a stroke:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg-especially on one side of the body.
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance.
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Use the FAST test to remember warning signs of stroke.
• F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
• A = ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
• S = SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
• T = TIME If you observe any of these signs (independently or together), call 9-1-1immediately.
Some risk factors are beyond your control, such as being over age 55, being African-American, and having a family history of stroke. But other risk factors can be changed or controlled, including high blood pressure, smoking, excessive drinking, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, poor diet, being overweight, and physical inactivity.
In addition, if you have had a previous stroke or episode of TIA or have heart disease, atrial fibrillation or carotid artery disease, you are also at increased risk.
• Eat a healthy diet. Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups. Choose foods like lean meats, fish and poultry without skin, vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Cut back on foods and beverages high in cholesterol, salt and added sugars.
• Exercise every day.Walk or do other forms of physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most or all days. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
• Stop smoking and avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Nonsmokers have about half the risk of stroke as people who smoke cigarettes. An average of more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or more than two drinks a day for men raises blood pressure and can lead to a stroke.
• Know your blood pressure. People with normal blood pressure have about half the risk of stroke as those with high blood pressure.
• Identify atrial fibrillation (Afib). Afib is an abnormal heartbeat that can increase stroke risk by 500 percent. Afib can cause blood to pool in the heart and may form a clot and cause a stroke. A doctor must diagnose and treat Afib.
• Know cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a fatty substance in blood that is made by the body. High cholesterol levels can clog arteries and cause a stroke. See a doctor if your total cholesterol level is more than 200.
• Control diabetes. Many people with diabetes have health problems that are also stroke risk factors.
• Treat circulation problems. Fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain and lead to a stroke. Other problems such as sickle cell disease or severe anemia should be treated.
• Act FAST at the first warning sign of stroke. If you have any stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.