Stroke, also known as a “brain attack,” is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke.
How does a stroke occur?
- Blood gives the brain the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive
- Arteries are the blood vessels that provide this blood to the brain
- When an artery is blocked or bursts, an area of the brain may not get enough blood
- This can cause brain cells to die and lead to brain damage
If you see any sign of stroke, consider it an emergency.
According to the National Stroke Association, “African Americans are more impacted by stroke than any other racial groups within the American population. African Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians and their rate of first strokes is almost double that of Caucasians.”
What are the risk factors of stroke?
Risk factors you can’t control
- Age: 1 out of 4 people who have a stroke are under 65, but your chance of stroke increases as you get older
- Race: African Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk of stroke than people of other races
- Gender: Stroke is more common in men, but more women die from stroke each year
- Family history: You are at greater risk if a family member has had a stroke
Risk factors that can be managed
- High blood pressure
The number one risk factor for stroke, and 1 in 3 African Americans suffer from high blood pressure. They are also less likely to have it under control than their non-Hispanic Caucasian counterparts.
- Atrial fibrillation (A-fib)
- High cholesterol
- Poor circulation
- Not being active
Warren L. Felton, M.D., professor of neurology at VCU School of Medicine and medical director at the VCU Comprehensive Stroke Center suggests the following to prevent a stroke, “Find out if you have a medical condition that can lead to stroke. Treat the condition if it is diagnosed. Regular check-ups with a doctor or nurse are important. Remember, these conditions may affect younger people too, and later lead to stroke. The most important treatable factors are hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, and smoking, in addition to maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and sleep.”
Know the Signs
FAST is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. Recognition of stroke and calling 9-1-1 will determine how quickly someone will receive help and treatment. Getting to a hospital rapidly will more likely lead to a better recovery.
Use FAST To Remember The Warning Signs Of A Stroke
“We emphasize FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) for stroke symptoms, because it is easy to remember and effective.” comments Dr. Felton.
- Facial drooping: A section of the face, usually only on one side, that is drooping and hard to move. This can be recognized by a crooked smile.
- Arm weakness: The inability to raise one’s arm fully
- Speech difficulties: An inability or difficulty to understand or produce speech
- Time: If any of the symptoms above are showing, time is of the essence; call the emergency services or go to the hospital.
The sooner you notice the signs of stroke and call 911, the better the chance of recovery. Take a minute to learn how to act FAST. It’s an easy way to remember the signs of stroke.
“Have the person lie down, or sit down if they are not able to lie down. Call 9-1-1. Stay with the person until help arrives.” says Dr. Felton.
Other warning signs
Stroke can affect people in different ways. Here are other warning signs you should know:
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance and coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause
Strokes can be very traumatic on the person and their family. It is imperative that we understand the symptoms to reduce our possibility of having a stroke. We also need to recognize the signs. ACT FAST!