May is National Stroke Month

May is stroke awareness month

American Stroke Awareness Month

During the month of May the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) recognize American Stroke Month by rallying the nation around the cause of educating people on strokes and their causes.

According to Stroke.org, a stroke happens every 40 seconds and each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US. Every four minutes someone dies from a stroke but up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. With all of these alarming statistics it’s easy to see how important raising awareness for the risk and prevention of a stroke is.

So what exactly is a stroke?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) an ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks the blood vessels in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke results from a weakened vessel that ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. A TIA, or transient ischemic attack or mini stroke, is caused by a temporary clot. It has the same pathology of a stroke, producing similar symptoms, but usually lasts only a few minutes and causes no permanent damage. A TIA should be seen as a warning.

Heeding the warning

According to the Mayo Clinic, about one in three people that have a transient ischemic attack will eventually have a stroke and about half occur within a year after the transient ischemic attack. With a stroke, time lost is brain lost and that is why it’s so important to take immediate action if you or someone you know experiences the warning signs of a stroke.

Who should be on the lookout for a stroke?

Strokes can affect any age group. Symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body, an abrupt loss of vision, strength, coordination, sensation, speech or the ability to understand speech. Other symptoms could include sudden to severe headache with no other cause followed by loss of consciousness, unexplained dizziness or sudden falls.

Risk factors for strokes include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a family history of strokes, tobacco use, obesity and physical inactivity.

Along with being one of the top causes of death in the US, stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability in America. Stroke is largely treatable if someone is diagnosed early enough. However, nearly two million brain cells are lost for every minute a stroke goes untreated.

F.A.S.T.

Ever heard of it? Well it’s an acronym that stands for: Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty and Time to Call 911.

Another helpful thing to know is what your risk is for having a stroke, according to Dr. Ross Tobleman, Emergency Department Medical Director at Baylor Scott and White Hospital in Round Rock, Texas.

“Make sure you go to your doctor and test your blood pressure, cholesterol, quit smoking, and adapt a healthy diet and exercise plan,” Dr. Tobleman said. “By knowing the risk factors and taking preventive measures you can prevent stroke in both yourself and your loved ones.”