National Stroke Awareness Month

It is important for each of us to be reminded of the five most common signs and symptoms of stroke, what to do when the classic signs are present and, of course, how to prevent stroke. Anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age can suffer a stroke.

A stroke occurs every 40 seconds and takes a life approximately every four minutes.Stroke, an obstruction in blood flow, or the rupture of an artery that feeds the brain, is the fourth leading cause of death in the US and the leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability. However, even with the frequency of occurrence, a recent study by the CDC found that only 38 percent of people can correctly identify all five symptoms of stroke and then knew to call 911 immediately when symptoms are present.

Common stroke symptoms include: 1) sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg usually on one side of the body; 2) sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others; 3) sudden impaired vision in one or both eyes; 4) sudden loss of balance, coordination or dizziness; 5) and/or sudden headache with no known cause.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act FAST and do this simple test:

  • 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 phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

Every minute counts! If you or someone you know shows any symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately. Medical personnel will try to stop a stroke while it is happening by quickly dissolving the blood clot or by stopping the bleeding. Medications are most effective in the first three hours. For hemorrhagic stroke, immediate surgery may be needed. Early treatment may reduce long-term disability.

While it is common to think otherwise, strokes can be prevented. The chances of having a stroke increase as risk factors increase. While certain risk factors such as age, gender, race and family history cannot be controlled, other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity; untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome and excessive alcohol use can be controlled.