May is Stroke Awareness Month

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association are raising awareness about one of the leading causes of death in the US—stroke. Did you know that stroke is ranked fifth in leading cause of death in the US?

Recent data shows that stroke mortality has climbed 3 percent and now affects 795,000 individuals annually (that’s one person every 40 seconds). That’s a life claimed every four minutes.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die. The death of cells causes the portion of the body affected to not function as it should. Nearly 2 million brain cells die each minute a stroke goes untreated, it remains a leading cause of disability and preventable disability nationally.

Eighty percent of strokes can be prevented through lifestyle changes such as managing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as being active, eating better, losing weight, starting an aspirin regimen and giving up smoking. (Current smokers have two to four times the stroke risk of nonsmokers or those who quit more than 10 years ago.)

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know the signs of stroke. Teaching people how to recognize a stroke and respond quickly is a primary goal of the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative.

F.A.S.T. is:

  • 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 or difficulty walking; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.

 Anyone experiencing some or all of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, even if the symptoms go away. Timing is crucial, some treatments can only be considered within 4½ hours of the onset of symptoms.

If you are alone and concerned that you might be having a stroke, call 911!

For more information go to www.heart.org or speak with your local pharmacist or physician.