Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious long-term disability.
Health care reform is what we want our lawmakers to do, but there are some things we need to do for ourselves, too. Those of us who are not medical professionals can learn some basic facts and promote awareness so that we can help prevent the serious consequences of inaction.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, causing brain cells to die. Permanent disability or death can result. When signs of stroke appear, every second counts.
Symptoms include numbness of the face or limbs, confusion, difficulty with speech or cognition, visual disturbances, trouble walking, loss of balance, and severe headache. Although the majority of strokes occur in people aged 65 or older, they can and do occur any age.
According to The American Stroke Association (a division of The American Heart Association), Americans will pay about $68.9 billion in 2009 for stroke-related medical costs and disability. That’s a lot of money.
Certain risk factors such as age, gender, and genetics are unavoidable, but here are things we can do to lower our risk of stroke. Smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, and abuse of alcohol and drugs all contribute to increased risk of stroke.
If you think someone is exhibiting signs of stroke, The National Stroke Association recommends acting F.A.S.T.
F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = ARM 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, it’s time to call 9-1-1.
Acting quickly could be the difference between minor or permanent disability… or life and death.
Be your family’s best health care advocate. Learn the signs of stroke and know what to do.