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May: National Stroke Awareness Month

May is National Stroke Awareness month and considering that it is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease, it is important that we all know the signs and what to do if we or someone we love starts to exhibit symptoms.

What Is A Stroke

Strokes occur when there is an interference with the normal blood flow to the central nervous system. When the blood flow is interrupted, the brain does not get the nutrients and oxygen it needs, and cells begin to die. Few brain cells will be affected if the interruption is brief and the patient may fully recover, but if the blockage is more severe, the damage could be more serious and could be permanent. 

Strokes are also a leading cause of adult disability. And although more strokes occur in the eldery, it is also a leading cause of disability and death among the middle aged.

Types Of Strokes

There are two types of strokes, Ischemic and Hemorrhages. Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots or cholesterol plaques that block the flow of blood through the arteries, and hemorrhages occur when arteries burst inside of or on the brain’s surface. 

The part of the brain that gets damaged depends on the location of the stroke. Areas commonly affected include those that involve sensory perceptions, memory, thought patterns, movement, behavior, and the ability to talk or understand speech.

Time is of the essence when it comes to a stroke. If a stroke is diagnosed early enough, it is possible that clot dissolving medication can be given to thwart a dire diagnosis. 

Act F.A.S.T.

The National Stroke Association has adopted the acronym F.A.S.T. as a way for the public to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke.  

F = FACE   Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

A = ARMS  Is one or both arms weak or numb?

S = SPEECH  Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand?

T = TIME  If you observe someone exhibiting these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Here are some other signs of a possible stroke:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body

  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in only one eye

  • Loss of speech or trouble talking or understanding speech

  • Sudden, severe headaches with no known cause

  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls, especially combined with any other symptom


Know The Risks And Prevention

Though no one can predict or  stop a stroke from happening, risks can be minimized. Knowing your medical and lifestyle risk factors can help to curtail mortality and morbidity outcomes.

You may prevent a stroke by taking the following actions:

  • Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure (over 130/80) is the biggest risk factor for stroke.

  • Don’t smoke. Chemicals in tobacco raise your blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen your blood carries to your brain, make blood thicker and stickier, and promote clotting.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure.

  • Be physically active. Getting regular aerobic exercise helps overall cardiovascular health.

  • Control your cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol levels damage your arteries and promote the formation of plaque.

  • Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Some fad diets may be unhealthy if they promote too much fat or salt.

  • Control diabetes. People with the disease are more likely to have strokes.

  • Follow your health care provider’s advice for treatment of heart disease, including coronary artery blockage and abnormal rhythms like atrial fibrillation.

  • Find out from your health care provider if you need to have your carotid arteries–the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain–checked for blockage.


Remember, the next time you suspect someone is experiencing a stroke, or you yourself are showing symptoms, think F.A.S.T. and call 911. It can make a difference in the outcome. Every minute counts! 

According To Stroke.Org here are 5 facts to know about strokes:

1. Under recent guidelines, nearly half of all adults in the United States have a high blood pressure reading of 130/80 or higher.

2. One in four stroke survivors have a second stroke

3. Stroke deaths have decreased due in part to earlier and better treatments of high blood pressure

4. Stroke patients treated with the clots busting prescription drug Alteplase IV r-tPA within 90 minutes of the first symptoms are almost three times more likely to recover with little or no disability

5. Up to 20% of all Ischemic stroke patients are currently eligible for mechanical clot removal. New guidelines in the future can increase this number

Some History

National Stroke Awareness Day was proclaimed in 1989 by President George H. W. Bush. It had been observed for many years before the proclamation. The Centers for Disease Control, the American Heart Association, World Stroke Campaign and many others have all participated in bringing education, research, and treatment on a global