Stroke Awareness Month Focuses on Speed

May is Stroke Awareness Month in the United States and The American Heart Association wants people to know that 80 per cent of all strokes are preventable and largely treatable with quick response.  Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in America but by learning the warning signs and causes of stroke, millions of lives can be saved.

Risks Factors for Stroke

  • Three out of four victims of stroke have high blood pressure
  • Stroke risk increases with age
  • A family history of stroke increases your risk by up to three times
  • African Americans have twice the risk for a first stroke as caucasians
  • Women have more strokes than men and stroke kills more women
  • Prior stroke or TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) are strong predictors of stroke
    (you are 10 times more likely to have a stroke if you have had TIAs)
  • If you have had a heart attack, you are at greater risk for stroke
  • Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for stroke
  • Diabetes, obesity and high blood cholesterol are also risk factors

Warning Signs of Stroke – F.A.S.T.

Facial drooping – does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Is the smile uneven?
Arm weakness – is one arm weak or numb?  Does one arm drift downward when raised?
Sudden slurring of speech – try to repeat “The sky is blue”  – is it correct?
Time to call 911 if you or someone you know shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away.  Note the time the symptoms first appeared.

Stroke can also present with sudden confusion, difficulty understanding speech, sudden vision problems, trouble walking, dizziness or loss of coordination and sudden severe headache.  Call 911 immediately if someone shows these symptoms.

Newer clot-busting medications and clot removing devices can treat disabling strokes when used quickly following a stroke.  Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a drug that can break up clots when given within 4.5 hours of initial symptoms; blood clots in larger arteries may require a mechanical thrombectomy, and should be done within six hours of acute stroke symptoms.   By threading a catheter through an artery in the groin up to the blocked artery in the brain, a doctor can use a stent to grab and remove a trapped clot. Nearly two million brain cells die each minute a stroke goes untreated.  To prevent long-term disability it is vital to act quickly if you suspect a stroke in yourself or someone you know.

To learn more about stroke prevention and treatment, visit the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association website at