National Stroke Awareness Month

A Presidential Proclamation in 1989 launched National Stroke Awareness month which is celebrated every May. Strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain is clogged or bursts, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching an area of the brain. A number of factors can increase someone’s risk of stroke; including lifestyle choices that affect our cardiovascular health. But there are more complex factors including an individual’s genetic composition, age and gender. And risk factors for women can be different from those for men. You can learn more about these risk factors from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is investigating the mechanisms underlying different risk factors for stroke and what happens to the affected brain tissue after a stroke. The NIH also recently announced a series of research grants to support efforts to reduce stroke disparities in the U.S. These grants will support work at research institutions around the country to address increased stroke risk in minorities using various approaches.

On average, an American suffers a stroke every 4 seconds. Stroke is the 4th leading cause of death in America, claiming more than 137,000 lives each year. Strokes affect people from all walks of life and can occur at any age.

National Stroke Awareness Month not only helps to raise awareness about the importance of research on stroke causes and consequences, but also to help people recognize the signs of a stroke. The pneumonic “FAST,” depicted above, stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness or numbness, Speech slurring or difficulty speaking and Time to call 9-1-1. These three physical symptoms are the most common signs that you or someone you love may be having a stroke. There are more symptoms to watch for; you can read about them here. Time is of the utmost importance if someone is having a stroke; the sooner a doctor can act to restore blood flow to the brain, the less brain damage may result.

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