October 29 is World Stroke Day

This year’s slogan is “Because I care….” The World Stroke Association says that this theme reminds us that caring about ourselves, our families and our friends is the key to preventing strokes and helping those who experience a stroke.

Stroke is among the five leading causes of death for people of all races and ethnicities in the United States. A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. Stroke can affect your senses, speech, behavior, thoughts, memory, and emotions. One side of your body may become paralyzed or weak.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent the devastating effects of stroke.

Because I care…

I’ll learn the signs of stroke

The five most common signs and symptoms of a stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Each year, about 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. The risk of having a stroke varies among racial and ethnic groups. Compared to whites, African Americans are nearly twice as likely to have a first stroke. Hispanic Americans’ risk falls between the two.

Although stroke risk increases with age, strokes can—and do—occur at any age. Nearly one quarter of strokes occur in people under the age of 65. Learning about stroke can help you act in time to save a co-worker, friend, or relative.
I’ll find out what to do when a stroke occurs

Signs of a stroke come on suddenly. If your symptoms go away after a few minutes, you may have had a “mini-stroke,” also called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). TIAs do not cause permanent damage but can be a warning sign of a full stroke to come—you should still get help immediately.

If you or someone else experiences one or more signs or symptoms of stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Every minute counts! Patients who arrive at the emergency room within 3 hours of their first symptoms tend to be healthier 3 months after a stroke than those whose care was delayed.

I’ll help prevent strokes

Some risk factors for stroke—heredity, age, gender, and ethnicity—you cannot change. But whether you have these risk factors or not, you can reduce your risk by making healthy choices. You can make sure that you, your family, and your friends know to—

  • Eat a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
  • Be physically active to help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid (or stop) smoking, and limit alcohol use.

Some medical conditions can raise your stroke risk. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, prior stroke or TIA, atrial fibrillation or other heart diseases, you can lower your risk for stroke by having your cholesterol checked, monitoring your blood pressure, managing your diabetes, and taking your medicine as instructed by your doctor.

Family members and friends are the most important source of support to the stroke survivor during recovery and rehabilitation. According to the American Stroke Association www.strokeassociation.org), there are many things that family caregivers and the stroke survivor can do to speed recovery.

I will join community efforts against stroke

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Million Hearts initiative (http://millionhearts.hhs.gov) to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. You can share your commitment to heart disease and stroke prevention by taking the Million Hearts™ pledge on the Million Hearts website.

World Stroke Day brings together advocacy groups, patient survivor support networks, volunteer stroke societies, public health authorities, health care professionals, and community members for a collaborative approach to comprehensive stroke education, advocacy, prevention, treatment, and long-term care and support for stroke survivors.

On World Stroke Day, make the commitment to prevent strokes and to help those who are recovering from a stroke… because you care.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)