May is National Stroke Awareness Month. In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, which accounts for 1 in every 19 deaths from all causes. Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. About 80% of strokes are preventable, making it incredibly important to know the facts. This May, take the time to learn the risks, signs and symptoms, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of stroke.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a brain attack that occurs in 1 of 2 ways.
Ischemic stroke: When the blood supply of the brain is blocked.
Hemorrhagic stroke: When a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
The brain attack can cause parts of the brain to become damaged or die, leading to possible disability or death. In the United States, a stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability. The risk of stroke can be greatly reduced by lifestyle changes to help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Who is at risk?
At any time, anyone of an age can have a stroke. Every year, about 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke. An estimated 1 out of 4 of those strokes are recurrent strokes. Having 1 stroke increases the risk of having another stroke. Unhealthy habits, including smoking, heavy alcohol use, lack of exercise can increase a person's chance of stroke. Health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity can also increase a person's risk of stroke. Treating these health conditions will reduce the risk. It is important to see a health care provider to talk about preventing and treating these health conditions, to prevent a stroke.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The acronym F.A.S.T. is an easy tool used to identify and remember the most common signs of a stroke.
F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech difficulty
T: Time to call 911
Other signs of a stroke include:
Trouble seeing in 1 or both eyes
Sudden severe headache
Numbness of face, arm, or leg
How is it treated?
A stroke may be treated with emergency care, treatment to prevent a recurrent stroke, or rehabilitation to relearn lost skills. Lifestyle changes, such as changing diet, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, or stopping alcohol use can prevent a recurrent stroke. Medications to manage health conditions may prevent another stroke from happening. Preventing, diagnosing, and controlling high blood pressure is the most important treatable risk factor for a stroke.
1. “About Stroke.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 Apr. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/about.htm.
2. Bloom, Charles. “May Is National Stroke Awareness Month.” HAP, Health Alliance Plan of Michigan, 7 May 2021, https://www.hap.org/blog/2021/05/may-is-national-stroke-awareness-month.
3. “Know the Facts about Stroke.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/docs/Know_the_Facts_About_Stroke.pdf.