National Stroke Awareness Month: May Help To Bring Awareness About Strokes
For the past fourteen years, the month of May has served as National Stroke Awareness Month. On May 11, 1989 then President George Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 5975 designating the month of May as National Stroke Awareness Month. By designating May as National Stroke Awareness Month, groups such as the National Stroke Association have been able to increase public awareness and in doing so continue to move one step closer to preventing strokes.
Bringing awareness to this issue is extremely important, because without awareness and knowledge the risks often become greater. One of the important things to know is just what a stroke is. According to the National Stroke Association, a stroke or “brain attack” is the result of a blood clot blocking an artery in the brain (this is known as a Ishemic stroke) or when a blood vessel breaks, thereby blocking the blood flow to that area of the brain (this is known as a Hemorrhagic). If either of these types of strokes occur, brain cells begin to die and in so doing causes brain damage. If brain damage occurs, and depending on which section of the brain it occurs, abilities such as speech, movement and memory can be affected.
Today, in the United States, strokes represent the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious long term adult disabilities. Each year approximately 133,000 people are lost due to strokes. In fact this year alone there will be roughly 795,000 incidents of individuals suffering from a stroke, that is nearly one stroke every forty seconds and the taking of a life every four minutes. Below are some interesting and surprising statistics about strokes:
- Each year approximately 55,000 more women than men have a stroke.
- Ishemic strokes account for about eighty-seven percent of all strokes, while Hemorrhagic strokes account for approximately thirteen percent of strokes, but are responsible for over thirty percent of all stroke related deaths.
- In 2010, the direct and indirect cost associated with individuals having a stroke was roughly $73.7 billion dollars in the United States.
It is critical to know, however, that while some groups may have a higher risk of strokes, strokes can still happen to anyone at any time, regardless of age, race or gender.
One of the most important things you can do if you think you or someone else is having a stroke is to remember FAST and if needed call 9-1-1. The National Stroke Association recommends an invaluable test called the FAST test. Fast stands for:
F = Face Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = Arms Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does their speech sound slurred or strange?
T = Time If you observe any of these signs(independently or together) call 9-1-1 immediately!
While there are some risk factors associated with strokes that you can’t control, like age, gender, race, or family history, there are some risks factors you can control. Some of the risk factors you can control are:
- High Blood Pressure – It’s critical to know and control your blood pressure not just for strokes.
- High Cholesterol - Like blood pressure it is important to know what your cholesterol is too.
- Physical Inactivity - Include exercise in your daily routine.
These are just a few of the risk factors you can control. For more information on risks factors and strokes in general, go to www.stroke.org . Remember the more you know about the causes and signs of a stroke, the more likely you could save your life or someone else’s.