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Raising Awareness to Reduce Stroke Risk

May Is American Stroke Month

Every May during National Stroke Month, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association works to raise awareness and improve the quality of care for stroke patients.

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. Approximately 800,000 Americans have a stroke each year, and one in four survivors will have another one.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, causing the brain and brain cells to die.

Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). A TIA (transient ischemic attack), or “mini stroke,” is caused by a temporary clot.

A large majority of strokes can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes such as moving more, eating smart and managing blood pressure. It’s important to “Know Your Numbers” – four key personal health numbers that help determine risk for stroke. The include total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index.

It’s also valuable to learn your family health history and talk to your doctor about lowering your personal risk for stroke. Your family may impact your health more than you think.

If someone is having a stroke, they must get medical attention right away. Immediate treatment may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Learn how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T.:

  • Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”
  • Time to Call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

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