Get Up To Speed F.A.S.T. About Stroke and Hypertension,
Plus Learn What The American Heart Association Needs You To Know
By Amandalyn Vanover
The American Heart Association (AHA) works tirelessly day after day to improve the overall life and heart health of Americans, while working to slow down the rise of stroke and heart disease related deaths. May is National Stroke Awareness Month and this is what the AHA and ASA (American Stroke Association) want you to know.
First of all, it’s critical to know the faster a stroke patient is treated, the more likely they are to recover. In fact, when the clot-busting drug IV r-tPA Alteplase is administered within 90 minutes of the patient’s first symptoms, they are three times as more likely to recover with little to no disability.
“91% of stroke patients treated within 150 minutes (of their onset of symptoms) with a stent retriever recovered with little or no disability.” – American Heart Association, 2019 American Stroke Month Key Messages
Knowing what to do in the emergency of a stroke and recognizing common stroke warning signs may help you to save a life and can even help to reduce a disability. In order to remember the warning signs of a stroke, it is recommended you burn the word and meaning of F.A.S.T. to memory.
- Facial Drooping – Is one side of the face drooping or numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile even or uneven?
- Arm Weakness – Is one of the person’s arms numb or weak? Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one of their arms drifting downward or are they unable to lift one?
- Speech Difficulty – Is the person’s speech slurred? Is the person able to speak? Are they hard to understand? Ask the person to say a simple sentence, such as “The sky is blue.” OR “The cat is outside.”
- Time to Call 9-1-1 – If you or someone else is showing ANY of these symptoms and even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital immediately. Be sure to check the time so you know when the onset of symptoms started.
Additionally, call 9-1-1 if any of the following happen: Sudden numbness, sudden confusion, suddenly having trouble seeing, suddenly having trouble walking, and a sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Primary Stroke Prevention
While not all strokes are preventable, about 80% may be prevented if certain actions are taken. These include not smoking, getting enough physical activity/exercise, making healthy food choices, properly treating medical conditions, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping stress levels low.
Even if you are suffering from certain medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or Afib, you can still reduce your stroke risk by making daily good choices. Speak directly with your health care provider / PCP about reducing your stroke risk.
Contributing Factors & Conditions
Black people are found to be at much higher risk of having a stroke than other races and have up to two times the risk of white people. Plus black people develop high blood pressure earlier in life than white people, their average blood pressure is much higher, and those who do have a stroke often experience more severe outcomes than their white counterparts.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure causes more strokes than any other condition. Over 116 million people in the United States have high blood pressure (hypertension) but fewer than 50% of them have their blood pressure under control. This puts them at a much higher risk of stroke.
“If you lower your blood pressure by 20 points, you can cut your risk of dying from a stroke in half.” – American Heart Association
An irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation / afib) puts a person five times higher for having a stroke. This is even if the person seldom feels symptoms.
All that fluttering in your heart can cause the blood to begin pooling and possibly even form clots, which may make their way to your brain.
Managing your afib is critical for reducing your risk of stroke too.
Straight to the point, the AHA wants you to know that if you have high blood pressure and/or high blood cholesterol – get them under control and there is no better time than the present to get at it.
Having large amounts of cholesterol in the blood causes build-up, which can lead to blood clots and stroke.
While diabetes is treatable, having it greatly increases the risk of stroke, even when glucose levels are controlled. This is because most people with Type 2 diabetes suffer from other conditions, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which are all major contributors to stroke.
An adult with diabetes in America is hospitalized for a stroke every 2 minutes.
This number has far exceeded the interpretation of an acceptable number. Every two minutes, folks! That’s way too often. Sadly, at the age of 60 a person with Type 2 diabetes with a history of stroke can actually have a 12 year shorter life expectancy than someone without the conditions.
Now is the time to work with your health care provider or PCP to manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of stroke.
Life’s Simple 7
The American Heart Association recommends Americans follow Life’s Simple 7 to achieve and maintain ideal health. Get your glow on, increase your energy levels, drink water, and smile your way to optimal body and heart health.
- Don’t Smoke
- Be Physically Active
- Control Cholesterol
- Control Blood Sugar
- Eat A Healthy Diet
- Maintain A Healthy Body Weight
- Control Blood Pressure
If stroke strikes once, don’t let it hit you again. Nearly one in every four stroke survivors suffer from another stroke. In the United States, there are nearly 7.2 million stroke survivors equating to 1.8 million of them that already had or will have another stroke.
The best way to avoid a second stroke is to work closely with your health care team to reduce your risks all around, and to take their advice ‘to heart.’
Together to End Stroke® – an initiative by the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association that’s nationally sponsored by Bayer formed to educate both survivors of stroke and caregivers with a plethora of information about how to avoid having another stroke.