May is National Stroke Awareness Month. This recognition began in 1989 as a way to raise public awareness and reduce the incidence of stroke—and while many things have changed since 1989, the prevalence of stroke is still very relevant in our communities. Medicare reports that more than 800,000 strokes occur in the United States annually and it is the fifth leading cause of death among Americans.
Murray County Medical Center is an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital, and we want to do our part in educating the public about stroke and its various risk factors. During a stroke, the blood flow to the brain is blocked. This blockage can affect a person’s speech, movement, memory, and more. Some of the most common warning signs of stroke are: weakness in the face, arm, or leg; difficulty speaking; vision loss; dizziness; brief loss of consciousness. While stroke is most common in adults age 65 and over, it can happen at any age. Certain factors may contribute to you having a higher risk of stroke such as smoking and drinking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, diabetes, and bad eating habits. Up to 80% of strokes may be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. To help with this, you can take advantage of the services at Murray County Medical Center including diabetes screening and education, cardiovascular disease screenings, substance counseling for tobacco and alcohol use, and using the Steve Cohrs Wellness Center.
Risk factors for stroke can vary for different groups of people. For men, the main risk is high blood pressure (hypertension). Other common risk factors of stroke for men are smoking (damages blood vessels), obesity or being overweight, diabetes (harms blood vessels in the brain), too much alcohol (raises blood pressure), and not enough physical activity. For women, the leading cause of stroke is also high blood pressure and women have many of the same risk factors as men. However, women may also be at higher risk for stroke due to higher rates of depression or taking certain birth control medicines, especially if they also smoke.
Your provider can perform various tests to diagnose whether you are experiencing a stroke including MRI, brain imaging, CT scanning, and blood flow tests. However, it is important to remember that when it comes to stroke, time is of the essence. The quicker a stroke is addressed and treated, the higher your chance is for better recovery. Stroke treatment typically encompasses emergency care for the present stroke, treatment to prevent future strokes, and rehabilitation to help victims relearn any skills they may have lost because of the stroke. If you believe you or a loved one is having a stroke, dial 9-1-1 right away, and remember the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T.
B: Balance- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
E: Eyes- Sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
F: Face- Facial weakness, uneven smile
A: Arm- Weakness, unable to raise both arms or legs evenly
S: Speech- Impaired, slurred, difficulty repeating simple phrases
T: Time- Call 911 immediately