May is American Stroke Awareness Month. It is very important for you to know that anyone can have a stroke. Strokes can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans—or one person every four minutes—died from stroke, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
There are many risk factors for stroke. Some risk factors, such as gender, ethnicity and age, are uncontrollable. But there are some risk factors that you can control.
Some controllable risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity and obesity
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Illegal drug use
Taking control is the first step to managing your risk.
- Get moving. If you are healthy, participate in moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least 40 minutes per day, three to four times per week.
- Watch your diet. Consider reducing sodium intake to <2300 mg/day and consider diets rich in fruits and vegetables such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets.
- Know your numbers. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in check.
- Know your family medical history. If high blood pressure and diabetes are common conditions, it’s important you ask your doctor what you can do to prevent them.
- Drink moderately. Studies show a strong connection between alcohol and stroke so make sure to moderate your alcohol intake. No more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
- Stop Smoking. Smoking decreases your health in general, but smokers also have 2-4 times the risk for stroke compared to nonsmokers and those who have quit for more than 10 years.
Most people don’t know the warning signs of stroke or what to do when one happens. Stroke is an emergency. But acting quickly can tremendously reduce the impact of stroke.
A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Brain cells begin to die.
Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy if you remember to think FAST:
F= Face Drooping
Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
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? Is the person unable to speak or 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 someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.
Source: American Stroke Association