Who is at risk?
Experts have identified many risk factors for stroke. Risk factors that cannot be reduced include, age 55 or older, black race and a family history of stroke. Other risk factors, many which can be minimized, include the following:
- High blood pressure (the leading cause of stroke)
- Irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)
- Cigarette smoking
- Excess alcohol use
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Excess dietary salt and fat
- Circulation problems
- Obesity or overweight
- Sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea)
Know the warning signs
Rapid treatment of stroke is essential to preventing death and disability, so it is important to know the warning signs of this event. The American Stroke Association works to make the public aware of the signs of stroke, so that they can seek and receive help quickly. The association states that the signs of stroke are as follows:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Know how to respond
If you experience any of the warnings signs of stroke, immediately call 911. Be sure to check a clock so you’ll know what time the first symptoms appeared. The American Stroke Association states that when treatment with a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is started within 3 hours of symptom onset, the long-term disability associated with the most common type of stroke may be reduced.
Another public health and awareness group, the National Stroke Association, recommends using the acronym FAST to evaluate anyone who might be experiencing a stroke.
F (face): Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A (arms): Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S (speech): Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his/her speech slurred or strange?
T (time): If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Don’t spend time waiting to determine whether the symptoms are serious.
American Stroke Association www.strokeassociation.org
National Stroke Association www.stroke.org