Every 45 seconds, someone in the United States experiences a stroke. Yet, despite being the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in this country, fewer than one in five Americans can recognize a symptom of a stroke. In addition, some people still believe that this condition is simply a "stroke of fate," not realizing that stroke is preventable and treatable.
National Stroke Association is urging people to take charge of their health by knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, asking their doctors about stroke prevention and adopting healthy lifestyle habits. A good first step is to have your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke. Nearly 60 million Americans - 29 million women - have high blood pressure, and almost a third do not even know it.
While a stroke can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender or race – women are uniquely impacted. Consider these facts:
Twice as many women die from stroke than from breast cancer every year.
More women than men die from stroke.
One half of all African American women will die from stroke or heart disease.
Women outnumber men as caregivers to stroke survivors.
4 out of 5 American families will be touched by stroke.
A stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when blood and oxygen flow to the brain is interrupted by a blood clot or a broken blood vessel. This kills brain cells in the immediate area, often causing physical and emotional disabilities including speech problems, memory loss and paralysis.
In addition to high blood pressure, there are several things that can contribute or increase a person’s risk for stroke including cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and family history. Women have additional risk factors to consider such as pregnancy and using hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause, all of which can increase stroke risk.
But the good news is that stroke is one of the most preventable of all life-threatening health problems, provided you pay proper attention to lifestyle and medical risk factors. Treatment exists to help minimize the effects of a stroke, however it must be given within 3 hours of the first symptom. So it is important for people to be able to recognize the symptoms of stroke and seek emergency medical attention. Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy by learning to think F.A.S.T.
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 drift downward?
S=Speech Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T=Time If you observe any of these signs, then it’s time to call 9-1-1.
Studies show that stroke patients who arrive at the hospital by ambulance receive quicker treatment than those who arrive by their own means. But where are the best hospitals to go to for the treatment of stroke? There are numerous hospitals across the country that have been certified as stroke centers, and specialize in the treatment of stroke. This designation goes to hospitals that make exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke care, and whose quality of care is effectively managed to meet the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients. To find a stroke center in your area please visit www.stroke.org and click on the emergency stroke center locations.