Friday, May 10, 2013

May is National Stroke Awareness Month

As National Stroke Awareness Month, May is the perfect time for everyone to reflect on what they know about stroke. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability. A stroke, or “brain attack,” can occur if a blood vessel leading to the brain either is blocked by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a "warning sign” of stroke. Although a TIA does not result in permanent damage, it is a medical emergency. A person experiencing a TIA should get to a hospital immediately to identify why the TIA occurred and get treatment. Immediate treatment can significantly reduce the risk of stroke in the future.

The National Stroke Association recommends using the “FAST” acronym to quickly recognize stroke symptoms in others and get help:
  • FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
  • TIME: If you observe any of these signs (independently or together), call 9-1-1.
If you think you or someone around you is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately! Time is of the essence. Prompt medical treatment may reduce damage to the brain and improve the outcome!

The most common signs and symptoms of stroke include:
  • 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 or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache.
According to the National Stroke Association, a number of controllable and uncontrollable factors can increase stroke risk. Controllable risk factors include high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, diabetes, atherosclerosis, circulation problems (such as peripheral vascular disease), tobacco use and smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity and obesity. Risk factors you cannot control are age (being over 55), gender (being male), race (African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander) family history of stroke, personal history of stroke or TIA, Fibromuscular Dysplasia or other diseases of the arteries or Patent Foramen Ovale (hole in the heart).

Some risk factors may be out of your control, but being aware of your risk will help you better understand the warning signs of stroke and get help faster. If your risks fall in the “controllable” category, making healthy lifestyle changes and focusing on diet and exercise can greatly decrease your risk. If you have concerns about your stroke risk, feel free to openly discuss them with your primary care physician.

To learn more about stroke, visit

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