For 25 years the month of May has been designated as National Stroke Awareness Month. It seems fitting that I take a few minutes of your time and bring you up to date on the statistics and ways to lower your risks. Strokes can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans dies from stroke – or about one person every four minutes. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Although many people think of stroke as a condition that affects only older adults, strokes can and do occur in people of all ages. In fact, nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than age 65.
The life-changing complications that strokes may lead to include:
• Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.
• Problems with thinking, awareness, attention learning, judgment, and memory.
• Problems understanding or forming speech.
• Difficulty controlling or expressing emotions.
• Numbness or strange sensations.
• Pains in the hands and feet.
To help protect yourself and your loved ones, learn what steps you can take to prevent a stroke and how to spot a stroke if one occurs.
Demographic factors such as family history, age, sex, and race can all play a role in an individual’s stroke risk. Regardless of your background, however, there are several things you can do to lower your chances of having a stroke.
Several factors you do have control over can help prevent cardiovascular disease, including stroke and contribute to overall health. These include:
• Keeping your blood pressure under control.
• Cholesterol management - get your cholesterol checked regularly and manage it with diet and physical activity if possible.
• Smoking cessation
• Exercise regularly
• Eat a healthy diet that is low in sodium
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Prevent or control diabetes.
• Limit your alcohol intake.
When responding to a stroke, every minute counts. The sooner a patient receives medical treatment, the lower the risk for death or disability. If you or someone you know exhibits the following signs or symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
• Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
• Confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding.
• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination.
• Severe headache with no known cause.
I have a free gift with the reminder of the signs of stroke available to the first 10 people who come by the Extension office next week. Remember we will be closed Monday observing the Memorial Day holiday.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or firstname.lastname@example.org