Stroke Awareness Month (May)

It is the leading cause of disability for adults and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States yet 80% of strokes are preventable! Since May is National Stroke Awareness Month, we will discuss what stroke is, symptoms associated with stroke and how you can prevent you and your loved ones from falling prey to this debilitating condition.

What is Stroke?

Stroke is essentially a "brain attack," and is very similar to what happens when someone has a heart attack. The arteries or blood vessels in the brain are clogged and there is a blockage or they may burst, which interrupts the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain. Strokes are commonly categorized as ischemic or hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are when your arteries are clogged by blood clots or plaque build-up; these account for over 87% of strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel breaks and leaks blood into the brain; these account for less than 15% of all strokes. Strokes cause brain cells to die and can lead to brain damage and other impairments. Brain tissue damage cannot be repaired and that is why it is important to know the signs and symptoms of stroke so you can act FAST!

Symptoms of Stroke

Symptoms commonly include numbness, slurred speech, confusion and difficulty walking. Use the following test to see if stroke has occurred:

F - FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A - ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm droop downward?

S - SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T - TIME If you observe any of these signs or symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately!

When it comes to stroke, time is of the essence, know the basic signs and symptoms and act quickly!

Risk Factors

Below are a few risk factors that can predispose you to stroke, including:

  • Age over 55
  • Male
  • African-American
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Excessive Alcohol
  • Previous Stroke or Mini-stroke (TIA)

Some of these risk factors, such as age, gender and race are out of our control, however, exercising, eating healthy, weight control, limiting alcohol and smoking cessation can decrease your risks for stroke.

For more information on the signs, symptoms or ways to prevent stroke visit www.stroke.org or dial 1-800-STROKES.

Information provided by Bethany Bowen, Intern from James Madison University working with Dana Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness at Augusta Health. To contact Dana H. Breeding, RN related to the above information, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.

National Stoke Association. (2010). Stroke 101. Retrieved (March, 2010) from www.stroke.org