NOTE: This is a guest post by Taryn Fort, Director of Marketing and Communications for the National Stroke Association.
National Stroke Awareness Month has been recognized during May for 23 years in the U.S. Yet, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, killing more than 133,000 people a year. Public knowledge of this condition we often call a “brain attack” is dangerously low. Further, many simply don’t realize that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by working with a healthcare professional to manage common risks.
One of the biggest challenges facing everyone engaged in stroke awareness faces is debunking the myths that exist. Making more people aware of the facts is essential. For example:
Myth: stroke can’t be treated; Reality: stroke can often be treated, but it’s important that a patient gets urgent medical treatment in time.
Myth: stroke is a type of heart disease; Reality: stroke is an event that occurs in the brain.
Often, the most jarring fact for people to hear is that stroke affects all ages. National Stroke Association designed our public awareness campaign, Faces of Stroke, to highlight the vast range of stroke survivors–from babies to people in their late 90s. Unfortunately for everyone, stroke does not discriminate against age, gender or race. Every person is at risk on some level.
But the good news is that most stroke risk can be managed.
Follow these five easy steps to become better informed about stroke:
- Understand what can lead to a stroke. Risk factors can lead to stroke. There are dozens of potential risk factors and combinations of risk factors to manage. Some are controllable (high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, smoking, drug and alcohol use) and others are uncontrollable (age, family history). Learn more about stroke risk factors and work with a doctor to help reduce personal risk.
- Score your risk. National Stroke Association offers an easy-to-use stroke risk scorecard for free online. We recommend that a person score their risk and then bring the completed score card to a doctor’s appointment. The scorecard is an ideal conversation starter with any healthcare professional.
- Manage risk. Once personal risk factors have been identified, it’s time to commit to managing them. Lifestyle changes such as healthier eating and quitting smoking can be tough to adopt long-term. Medical changes such as surgical procedures and medication can prove to be access challenges. Working with a healthcare professional and other experts to map out your stroke-free future is key.
- Know how to act FAST at any warning sign of stroke. When stroke hits, you have to act FAST. Getting urgent medical care can significantly reduce long-term disability, but it all depends on a person calling 9-1-1 or arriving at a hospital in time. There are many types of warning signs that indicate a person is having a stroke, but most people don’t know them.
Memorize this easy-to-remember tool so you can act FAST and help determine if someone is having a stroke.
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. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T=Time: If you observe any of these signs, then it’s time to call 9-1-1.
- Share your newfound stroke knowledge with family and friends. The Five Faces Pledge is an easy and free way to tell five people you care about how to recognize and respond to stroke warning signs. Take it now at www.stroke.org/pledge.
National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke, and is the only national organization in the U.S. that focuses 100 percent of its efforts on stroke through education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.
Learn more about how you can get involved in National Stroke Awareness Month at www.stroke.org/awareness.
Photo courtesy of National Stroke Association.