NEW YORK STATE (May 13, 2014) – During American Stroke Month in May, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) asks all Americans to learn three things that may save a life from stroke.
Know the risk factors for stroke. Know the stroke warning signs. And know what to do in a stroke emergency.
Stroke is the number one preventable cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the AHA/ASA. Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, yet 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
“Knowing if you are at risk for stroke is highly important, because many risk factors can be modified and controlled,” said Jason Greenberg, MD, Director of Stroke Rehabilitation at Helen Hayes Hospital and American Stroke Association Board Member, “The number one stroke risk factor is high blood pressure. Nearly 78 million Americans have high blood pressure and many more aren’t even aware that they have it. It’s important to check your blood pressure regularly and talk to your doctor about healthy levels for you.”
Other risk factors that are controllable include cigarette smoking, diabetes, artery disease, Atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, poor diet and inactivity. Risk factors that can’t be changed include family history, age, race and gender. African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians.
Women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men. Women have unique risk factors for stroke including use of birth control pills, pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use, and smoking, and post-menopausal hormone therapy.
“More people need to know the signs and act quickly when they recognize it,” said Greenberg, “Stroke doesn’t have to mean death or disability. Quick recognition and action by bystanders to get the victim medical treatment will reduce chances for long term damage. A victim may have one or all of the signs. It’s important to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible.”
The ASA’s Together to End Stroke initiative, sponsored nationally by Covidien, uses the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people to recognize a stroke and what to do if one occurs:
· F – Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
· A – Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
· S – Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
· T – Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
Additional stroke signs include: Sudden severe headache with no known cause; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.
At signs of a stroke, quick treatment is critical. Delays can result in death or permanent disability like paralysis, memory loss, loss of brain function and speech impairment. Unfortunately, more than a third of stroke patients don’t get to the hospital by ambulance, even though that’s the fastest way to get there, according to research in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.
Studies show that EMS transported victims have earlier arrival, quicker evaluation with brain scans and faster treatment including use of clot-busting drugs. Emergency rooms are alerted by EMS and can have the stroke care teams ready when the ambulance arrives. Time is critical when it comes to stroke survival.
Together to End Stroke offers a free “Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T.” mobile app for iOS and Android, including the warning signs and a searchable map to find local hospitals recognized for heart and stroke care.
Get your free stroke risk assessment at http://strokeassociation.org/strokemonth to get your personalized action prevention plan or call 914-640-3260. Follow #StrokeMonth on Facebook and Twitter to add your voice to the conversation.