May 13, 3014
Stroke Awareness Month
By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Odds are, someone you know has had a stroke. Stroke is a medical emergency that can strike without warning, and each year, it kills 129,000 individuals nationwide, including 2,500 Wisconsinites. Fortunately, May is Stroke Awareness Month, bringing attention to this often debilitating disease. This week my office has had the opportunity to meet with stroke victims and learn how to recognize the signs of an attack, as well as the importance of immediate treatment. Together, we can focus the spotlight on strokes and help to prevent future deaths.
Did you know that stroke is the third leading cause of death among women and the fourth leading cause of death among men in the United States? Because strokes are becoming increasingly prevalent, I want all of my constituents to understand the risk factors and methods for prevention. Such factors range from being hereditary to resulting from a person’s lifestyle, so while some risk factors can’t be controlled, it’s especially crucial for those who face higher natural risk to stay mindful and informed. Some uncontrollable factors include age, family history, race, sex, and prior stroke or heart attack. Controllable factors include obesity, untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, artery and heart disease, high cholesterol, untreated sleep apnea, poor diet and lack of exercise. Living a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and regular exercise can greatly reduce overall risk of stroke.
Additionally, it is important to note that women are especially at risk for experiencing a stroke, and even young women can be affected by the disease. About 3 out of 10,000 women who are pregnant will have a stroke, and women with high blood pressure need to speak with their doctors before either going on birth control pills or getting pregnant, as combinations of such factors have been suggested to increase risk. Overall, 1 in 5 women has a stroke at some point in her life. While it is important for all individuals to be aware of their risk for stroke, women especially should be mindful of their lifestyle. I encourage every woman to talk to her doctor about stroke prevention.
The brave survivors and professionals that met with my office met for stroke awareness month emphasized the importance of knowing how to identify these symptoms when emergency help is needed, so it’s my hope that all of my constituents will become aware of the “F.A.S.T.” signs of stroke. The American Stroke Association tells us that “F” stands for FACE: notice if one side of the face droops or is numb. “A” stands for ARM: does one arm drift downward when raised? “S” stands for SPEECH: recognize if the person is having trouble speaking or repeating a short sentence. Lastly, “T” stands for TIME: call 9-1-1 immediately if any of these signs are present and note the time the symptoms first appeared. Memorizing these simple steps could benefit both yourself and those around you.
Finally, a stroke doesn’t have to be a death sentence or the end of independence. The ASA provides plenty of suggestions for victims and their caretakers. Survivors face a host of both physical and mental challenges, but there is an entire community of survivors who are eager to help each other on the road to recovery.
Strokes can be a very frightening disease, but they can often be prevented. During Stroke Awareness Month, I urge you to become informed about this issue and to spread the word in your community. I also encourage everyone to visit http://strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/ to learn more!