Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Here it is in the last few hours of May, and I only just realized, thanks to the current issue of StrokeSmart magazine, that May is Stroke Awareness Month. StrokeSmart is from the National Stroke Association, and as a stroke survivor I find it encouraging and informative.
The letter from the magazine’s editor had some statistics that surprised me. To illustrate the need for heightened awareness of stroke, he compared statistics about another disease that is much higher than stroke on the radar of most people in the United States. Think pink for breast cancer awareness. His numbers, all for the U.S.:
- New diagnoses of invasive breast cancer number around 230,000 annually, and there are about 40,000 deaths.
- In comparison, nearly 800,000 strokes occur in the U.S. every year (about one every 40 seconds), and stroke kills nearly 130,000 people every year.
- Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease, cancers, and respiratory diseases.
The numbers for both conditions represent lives of the stricken individuals and their families that are changed forever.
The editor made a plea for readers to help increase awareness of stroke, from educating others about the earliest signs of stroke to joining or organizing fundraising events.
An elder and a stroke survivor, I also found these statistics, reported here, compelling: Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65.
At any age, recognizing that a stroke may be occurring and getting prompt help is critical. The FAST way to check for signs of stroke is an easy way to remember the warning signs and how to check for them. Using the FAST memory aid is also a reminder of the need for speed.
In the case of stroke the reality is that “Time is brain.”
The FAST check
Face—Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the person’s face droop?
Arms—Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech—Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the person’s speech slurred or strange?
Time—If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.