American Stroke Month is all about recognition and reaction.
Stroke is the #4 killer of Americans and is also a leading cause of long-term disability. If you or someone you know were having a stroke, would you recognize the symptoms? Just as importantly, would you know what to do? The second a stroke hits, the brain begins to suffer damage. The longer the stroke goes untreated, the greater the damage. May is American Stroke Month, a time when the American Heart Association reminds all of us to know the warning signs of stroke and to reduce our risk of stroke.
Here are the symptoms to be on the watch for: Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or trouble understanding. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination. Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Dr. H. Steven Block, Medical Director of the Dean & St. Mary’s Stroke Center says the next step is easy. “When you suspect that someone is suffering from a stroke, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Make sure everyone from the dispatcher, to the EMTs to the nurses and doctors know that the patient may be having a stroke. This will help ensure they get the highest level of care as quickly as possible. The clot-busting drug tPA can save lives and reduce disability if it’s given within three hours after an ischemic stroke starts. Ischemic strokes may be caused by clots and are, by far, the most common type of stroke.”
Stroke affects people of all ages and races. Take the case of Kaela Gedda. The Green Bay native was a seemingly healthy 19-year-old college student when the unthinkable happened. Her left side got weak, she lost motor function and blacked out. “I never thought I’d become a stroke survivor at 19, but it just shows that stroke doesn’t discriminate,” said Gedda. Just because you’re in shape, doesn’t mean you’re safe either. Eric Sarno of Madison found that out at the age of 36. The triathlete was training for the World Amateur Championships when he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. Each of these survivors has made a remarkable recovery and each actively help the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association with their mission to improve cardiovascular health for all. For more information about stroke, visit strokeassociation.org.
Watch Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke, and nearly one-in-three American adults suffer from this “silent killer” which often has no symptoms. The prevalence of high blood pressure in African-Americans is among the highest in the world. It’s important to know your blood pressure and to try to keep at 120/80 or lower. Ways to lower your blood pressure include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding foods high in sodium, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole-grains, controlling the amount of alcohol consumed, reducing stress, and taking blood pressure medicine as prescribed.
To find out more about your risk factors for stroke, take the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s free health assessment at mylifecheck.org.