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May is Stroke Awareness Month

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Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America and the No. 1 cause of adult disability. However, 80% of strokes are preventable; you can prevent a stroke!

What is a stroke?

A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happens brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.

When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities include speech, movement and memory. How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.
For example, someone who has a small stroke may experience only minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be paralyzed on one side or lose their ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of disability.

Stroke Risk Factors

Anyone can have a stroke. But your chances for having a stroke increase if you meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria, called risk factors, are beyond your control and include things such as being over age 55, male, African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander, or having a family history of stroke.

Other stroke risk factors are controllable. High blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat), high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol use (more than 2 drinks per day for men, one drink a day for women), and obesity are the risk factors over which you can exert control.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and, since brain tissue cannot be regenerated, prevention of a stroke is by far the best treatment.

1. Know your blood pressure. Ideal blood pressure for most people is less than 140/90 less for certain high-risk patients.
2. Find out if you have atrial fibrillation.
3. If you smoke, stop.
4. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
5. Find out if you have high cholesterol
6. If you are diabetic, make sure your diabetes is controlled.
7. Exercise.
8. Enjoy a lower sodium (salt), lower fat diet.
9. Know the Symptoms of Stroke.

The National Stroke Association received the Presidential Proclamation recognizing May as National Stroke Awareness Month in 1989. The goal of this annual campaign is to ensure that all Americans understand they can save a life by knowing about stroke risk factors, prevention, symptom recognition and acting F.A.S.T. to treat stroke.

To know the symptoms of stroke, think F.A.S.T.:

F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = ARM 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, it's time to call 9-1-1.

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