May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Most strokes can be prevented

Can you spot the warning signs of a stroke? Learn them and you could save a life — maybe even your own!

Why is stroke prevention and recognition important? Because it’s the 5th-leading cause of death in the U.S., occurring in 800,000 individuals annually. It is also the leading cause of long-term adult disability, with half of all global stroke survivors being permanently disabled, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Women carry a 7% higher risk, mainly because they live longer and overall risk doubles every decade past the age of 65. Additionally, some form of reduced mobility occurs in half of all patients over age 65 who experience a stroke.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes occur in the brain, when a blood clot blocks an artery (ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel breaks (hemorrhagic stroke), both of which interrupt blood flow. As that part of the brain loses circulation, the lack of oxygen from the blood causes the brain cells surrounding the affected area to die. The severity and impact depends on which part of the brain it occurs in, and can include physical/mobility problems, loss of speech and/or memory, and emotional changes. And the costs are high – even beyond the lost quality of life, $33 billion is spent annually for treatment in our country, according to the American Heart association.

Take Steps to Prevent

But the most startling statistic is how many strokes are preventable – 80 percent. Many risk factors can be reduced or minimized with simple, common-sense lifestyle choices. To reduce your chances, as well as improve your overall health, Oxford recommends several basic steps;

  • Choose a Nutritious Diet
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Make time for Physical Activity
  • Quit Smoking Now
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption

Strokes are classified as a result of heart disease, so patients should also address any other coexisting conditions to further reduce their risk. These include regular cholesterol checks, controlling blood pressure, managing diabetes, treating other heart diseases, taking all prescribed medications and working with your doctor and health care team.

Recognize the Signs

How do you know if you’re having a stroke? Symptoms can be anything from a sudden, severe headache in a specific area, to a loss of vision or balance. The American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association have developed a list of four warning signs to determine a person is potentially having a stroke.

  • FACEFAST - Stroke warning signs
    An eye, mouth or cheek appears to sag on only one side of the face
  • ARM
    Weakness on one side of the body that has no other apparent cause
  • SPEECH
    Speech suddenly becomes jumbled, slurry, or slow
  • TIME
    If a person has one or more symptoms, act quickly and call 911 to get emergency medical help.

Make sure to note what time the symptoms began, since early treatment is critical to minimizing long-term damage and impairment. Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first stroke symptoms have less disability 90 days afterward than someone who receives delayed care, according to the CDC.

Even More Resources

There is still life to be lived after a stroke, even if you have experienced permanent damage. Physical, occupational and speech therapy can help you regain the maximum possible mobility and minimize the negative impacts. Additionally, a qualified home care team like Oxford HealthCare can help stroke patients maintain their independence during and after treatment. For additional resources on maximizing your recovery from a stroke, visit the American Stroke Association online.

MAY IS NATIONAL STROKE AWARENESS MONTH

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke. A stroke occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) it is the fourth leading cause of death. A stroke can strike people of all ages, in fact the CDC reports that nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than 65.
Strokes are largely PREVENTABLE.
• According to the American Stroke Association, one in three Americans has high blood pressure, which is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke. It is important to keep your blood pressure under control.
• Cigarette smoking contributes to one in every five strokes in the country. Exposure to second hand smoke can also contribute to a higher stroke risk.
• Exercise regularly. To help lower or control blood pressure, get 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to four times a week.
• Prevent or control diabetes.
• Get your cholesterol checked regularly and manage it with diet/physical activity or medication if needed.
• Eat a healthy diet. Watch your sodium intake.
• Limit your alcohol intake.
• Ask your doctor if taking aspirin is right for you.
Strokes are TREATABLE, but every second counts. The sooner a patient receives medical treatment, the lower the risk of death or disability.

As an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke, the American Stroke Association wants everyone to learn F.A.S.T. When you spot the signs you will know to call 9-1-1 immediately.

F = Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
A = Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downwards?
S = Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T= Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you will know when the first symptoms appeared.

Beyond F.A.S.T., other warning signs include:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg.
• Sudden confusion
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden severe headaches with no known cause

Remember getting immediate medical attention for stroke is crucial to prevent disability and death.
For more information go to www.strokeassociation.org

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.