National Stroke Awareness Month takes place in May every year. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S.
About 795,000 strokes occur in the U.S. each year. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes, and about 185,000 occur in people who have already had a stroke.
The National Stroke Association urges education to help reduce the incidence of stroke. The three main approaches to education are:
• STOP stroke through risk factor management.
• Act (FAST) to increase recognition and response to stroke symptoms.
• Spread HOPE about recovery from stroke.
Risk factor management
Strokes can affect all people, regardless of age, race or gender.
Eighty percent of strokes can be avoided, however.
There are uncontrollable and controllable risk factors for stroke. Uncontrollable risk factors include being a male over age 55, being African-American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander, or having a family history of strokes.
Controllable risk factors for stroke involve lifestyle and medical risk factors. Lifestyle risk factors that can be controlled include tobacco use, alcohol use, physical inactivity and obesity.
Medical risk factors that can be best managed by working with a physician include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, certain heart conditions and circulation problems.
The National Stroke Association stresses the importance of learning the warning signs of stroke and recommends the FAST acronym to help people remember the warning signs:
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 phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T – TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call an ambulance immediately.
Recovery from stroke
Recovery from stroke is an ongoing process. For some people, it may start with formal rehabilitation to restore independence and quality of life.
The National Stroke Association encourages learning about stroke and recovery, and provides additional resources.
For more information on strokes, visit one of these websites:
» National Stroke Association, www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=awareness.
» Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/Features/Stroke/.
» Health Central, www.healthcentral.com/heart-disease/stroke-awareness-month.html.