Strokes are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States with an estimated 800,000 experiencing a stroke every year, according to the National Stroke Association. Surprisingly, despite these numbers, as many as 80% of strokes can be prevented. As such, a number of organizations have dedicated themselves to helping individuals quickly identify a stroke and to take measures to prevent them in the first place, hoping to reduce the number of people who needlessly die or suffer serious injuries every year.
Identifying Common Signs of a Stroke
Of the estimated 800,000 people who suffer a stroke each year, there are roughly 130,000 deaths that occur from strokes annually in the United States. Unfortunately, some of these deaths could be prevented with greater awareness of the signs of a stroke, enabling victims to get timely treatment.
There are a number of different symptoms that can indicate that a person is having a stroke, but four of the most common have been organized into the pneumonic device F.A.S.T. to hopefully help people remember these symptoms and seek potentially life-saving treatment immediately. F.A.S.T. stands for:
- Face Drooping - if a person is having a stroke, one side of their face is likely to droop or become numb. An easy way to check for this is to have a person smile. If their smile is crooked, or drooping on one side, they could be having a stroke.
- Arm Weakness - in a stroke, a person's arms will become weak, making it difficult for them to lift both arms above their head.
- Speech Problems - during a stroke a victim will have significant speech impairment. By asking a person to stay a normal sentence, you should be able to tell if their speech is suddenly slurred or otherwise impaired, indicating a stroke.
- Time - time is of the essence for a stroke victim, and if you even suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, you need to call 9-1-1 immediately. This is not a medical problem that you can wait and see how things go - strokes need immediate attention to prevent death or permanent damage.
This last point is especially important - like many other serious health emergencies, identifying a stroke as quickly as possible can help to improve an individual's chances of survival and lessen the chances of long-term disabilities. As such, take action immediately if you suspect a stroke, and also take note of the time these symptoms began showing - this information can be very helpful for emergency responders.
While recognizing a stroke early on is essential to minimizing the damage it causes, as mentioned before, researchers estimate that as many as 80% of all strokes are, indeed, preventable. As such, it's important for everyone, especially seniors, to know what they can do to prevent a stroke from happening in the first place.
The American Heart Association, has provided their Simple 7 list of things that people can do to help improve heart health, which in turn can help reduce a person’s stroke risk.
- Keep blood pressure in check - having high blood pressure increases your risk of having a stroke, as well as the likelihood of heart disease. Lowering your blood pressure can lessen your chances of having a stroke, and it can also have numerous other benefits on your health overall.
- Keep your cholesterol in check - much like high blood pressure, having high cholesterol can increase your chances of suffering from heart disease and stroke. Lowering your cholesterol can help keep your arteries clear, and lessening your chances of having a stroke.
- Lower your blood sugar levels - high blood sugar levels can have adverse effects on a number of different bodily systems, and lowering your blood sugar levels can help keep your heart healthy.
- Remain active - staying active, even into your seniors years, can help you maintain heart health and can help to improve your overall quality of life.
- Eat well - healthy eating habits can play a huge role in helping you to reach the goals listed above. A healthy diet can help you keep your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol at healthy levels and can help you feel better on a day to day basis, giving you the energy you need to stay active.
- Lose weight - just like eating well, losing weight can help you to achieve many of the above health goals. Losing weight will help you lower your blood pressure naturally and can help benefit your heart, blood vessels, and lungs.
- Quit smoking - smoking alone is a huge risk factor for a number of serious health conditions, including stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Every day you don't smoke, you benefit your heart, and your health, overall.
Strokes are the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, and as many as 2/3 of those who survive a stroke will live with some kind of ongoing disability. As such, it's important for everyone to do everything they can to improve their health in order to prevent strokes and other potentially damaging health conditions.