Every year, the month of May is designated as National Stroke Awareness Month. As the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and also a major cause of disability, strokes carry a serious impact on public health. A stroke occurs when a vessel carrying blood to the brain either bursts or is blocked by a clot, which cuts off oxygen flow and necessary nutrients. This causes nearly two million brain cells to die for every minute a stroke remains untreated. As a result, strokes can lead to life-long, harmful effects and are considered a life-threatening emergency. Stroke Awareness Month is therefore dedicated to educating people on how they can possibly save their lives and the lives of those around them.
First, due to the urgent need for medical attention, rapid access to treatment can make a huge impact on recovery for stroke victims. Even seconds can make the difference between a full recovery and permanent disability, or even death. In order to quickly recognize the signs of a stroke, the National Stroke Association encourages individuals to memorize the acronym F.A.S.T. This stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 9-1-1. This means that if any or all of these three symptoms are present, then immediate medical services are needed and should be contacted right away.
Also, the Society for Public Health Education estimates that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Even making just a few lifestyle changes can help protect a person against having a stroke. For instance, it is important to stay active, eat healthy, and maintain a normal weight. Obesity, poor diet, and a lack of regular exercise are all factors that can put one at a higher risk for stroke. Additionally, closely managing your blood pressure and cholesterol are also key to stroke prevention. Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range will help to reduce strain on your arteries and aid in avoiding potential blockages.
During National Stroke Awareness Month, try reflecting to see what steps you can take to help reduce your risk. By following the recommendations of staying healthy and knowing the signs of a stroke, you can help keep yourself and your community safer.