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To Your Health: Take steps to prevent and recognize strokes

Updated: June 8, 2014 6:09AM



During American Stroke Month in May, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association asks all Chicagoans and suburbanites to learn two things that may save a life.

1. Know if you are at risk for stroke.

2. Know the stroke warning signs and what to do in a stroke emergency.

Stroke is the No. 1 preventable cause of disability and the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, yet 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

“Knowing if you’re at risk for stroke is important, because many risk factors can be modified and controlled,” said Dr. Demetrius Lopes, director of neuroendovascular surgery at Rush University Medical Center. “The No. 1 stroke risk factor is high blood pressure. Nearly 78 million Americans have high blood pressure and many more aren’t even aware that they have it. It’s important to check your blood pressure regularly and talk to your doctor about healthy levels for you.”

Through the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative, the association provides information and tools to help people prevent, treat and beat stroke.

A free stroke risk assessment, available at www.StrokeAssociation.org, helps individuals evaluate their personal stroke risk and work with their doctors to begin a prevention plan.

Together to End Stroke, nationally sponsored by Covidien, a global health care product company, teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people recognize a stroke and what to do if one occurs:

F — Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

A — Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S — Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T — Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

“Prevention is the best cure, but in the event of a stroke emergency, quick recognition and treatment may have a dramatic impact on the outcome,” said Dr. Mark Turco, chief medical officer of Covidien Vascular Therapies. “If you are at risk for stroke or spend time with someone who is, learning and sharing the stroke warning signs should be a priority.”

Additional stroke signs include sudden severe headache with no known cause; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.

Together to End Stroke offers a free “Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T.” mobile app for iOS and Android, including the warning signs and a searchable map to find local hospitals recognized for heart and stroke care.

For more information about stroke or American Stroke Month activities, visit StrokeAssociation.org/strokemonth. Follow #StrokeMonth on Facebook and Twitter to add your voice to the conversation.

About the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — America’s No. 4 killer and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent, treat and beat stroke.

The Dallas-based association was created in 1997 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call (888) 478-7653 or visit strokeassociation.org.



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