May is National Stroke Awareness MonthMay is National Stroke Awareness Month. This makes it the perfect time to learn about stroke risk factors and prevention, along with how to recognize a stroke and what to do after you’ve experienced a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, approximately 65,000 Americans will experience a stroke in May alone. This guide to stroke awareness month will highlight the risk factors as well as ways you can prevent yourself from ultimately experiencing a stroke at some point in your life.
Stroke Risk Factors & Prevention
While some stroke risk factors are outside of your control, many can be managed. Doing these things can reduce your risk of stroke:
- Controlling high blood pressure
- Staying active
- Controlling lipids (blood fats)
- Healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Maintaining heart health
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Managing stress
- Managing diabetes
It’s also important to understand that certain segments of our population are more susceptible to suffering from a stroke. Below is a list of the populations who are at greater risk.
People at Greater Risk of a Stroke
- Those over 55
- African Americans, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islanders
- Those who have a family history (parent, grandparent, or sibling) of stroke
- Those who have had a previous stroke
- Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD)
- Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
- Atrial Fibrillation (aFib)
- Those who have experienced a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), a brief episode of stroke-like symptoms that usually cause no permanent damage or disability. The greatest risk for these individuals is within the first week after the TIA.
Recognizing a Stroke
The acronym F.A.S.T. is the easiest way to remember the most common stroke symptoms. This refers to your face, arms, speech and time as highlighted below.
- F – Face. One side of the face may droop
- A – Arms. One arm may be weaker than the other
- S – Speech. Speech may be slurred or strange
- T – Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Other possible stroke symptoms include sudden confusion, vision problems, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking, and severe headache. It’s important to note the time you first observed stroke symptoms as it can impact treatment.
Fisher-Titus is certified as Primary Stroke Center through the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) meaning that we are able to stabilize and treat acute stroke patients, provide acute care, and administer tPA and other acute therapies. In order to maintain this certification, we have to meet the following standards:
- The program director must have extensive experience in acute stroke
- Stroke code team arrival at bedside must be within 15 minutes
- Lab testing and advanced imaging capabilities must be available 24/7
- Must have access to neurologists 24/7
- Must have neurosurgical expertise available or able to transfer patients within two hours
- Must have a designated stroke unit
- Staff must meet education requirements
Life After a StrokeRehabilitation is a large part of stroke recovery for many people. Physical therapy can help with problems in moving and balance. Your physical therapist may also suggest exercises to strengthen muscles for walking, standing, and other activities. Occupational therapy helps stroke survivors learn strategies to manage daily activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, writing, or cooking. Speech therapy can help with re-learning language skills (talking, reading, and writing) and can help with swallowing problems. All of these therapies are offered at Fisher-Titus so you can recover close to home.
Once an individual has had a stroke, they are at an increased risk for repeat stroke. It is important for stroke survivors to talk to their doctor about what lifestyle changes they should make to help reduce any additional stroke risk.
Support groups can be very beneficial for stroke survivors. Fisher-Titus hosts a regular Coffee and Conversation Stroke Support Group for stroke survivors and their caregivers. For more information about the stroke support group, call (419) 663-1975 ext. 3093.
Dr. Steven Benedict is a Neurologist with Advanced Neurological Associates. Fisher-Titus has been a Primary Stroke Center since 2007.