May is National Stroke Awareness Month — a month focused on raising awareness about risk factors, warning signs and symptoms of stroke. And, it’s a reminder to Be FAST when it comes to stroke.
Stroke, the nation’s third leading cause of death, affects nearly 700,000 people every year. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every 3.1 minutes. Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States, with nearly 4.7 million stroke survivors alive today
There are two types of stroke.
Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke caused by blood clots that block blood flow to the brain. Less frequent is hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in, or leading to, the brain bursts.
Stroke is a medical emergency: Be FAST
Therefore, recognizing stroke symptoms is vital to stop or lessen the extent of its damage on the brain. The acronym BE FAST is an excellent way of identifying stroke symptoms:
- Balance: Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
- Eyes: Are there sudden vision changes?
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech: Is speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the sentence repeated correctly? Has the person experienced a sudden, severe headache? Do NOT ignore this symptom.
- Time: If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
There are some stroke risk factors that can’t be controlled including a person’s gender, age and family history. However, many stroke risk factors are lifestyle related and can be reduced by making a few simple changes.
Lifestyle-related factors that increase your risk of stroke include: high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, heavy drinking, a diet high in saturated fat and salt but low in fiber, fruit and vegetables, a lack of regular exercise and obesity.
Individuals with atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat are also at risk for stroke.
For stroke victims, knowledge is power. By understanding and recognizing the warning signs of stroke, and quickly getting to a primary stroke center the risk of complications and death can be reduced.