WEST PALM BEACH — This American Stroke Month, the American Heart Association wants you to focus on one thing: “F.A.S.T.” If you experience the “F.A.S.T.” warning signs – face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty, it’s time to call 911. Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of disability. Through its Getting to the Heart of Stroke initiative, the American Heart Association and HCA Healthcare Foundation aim to educate people about stroke risk factors, prevention and management.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die. According to the American Heart Association, someone in the United States suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies from a stroke every 4 minutes.
“While we generally see stroke in older adults, it is a threat to people of any age,” says Dr. Teresita Casanova, stroke medical director at HCA Florida JFK Hospital and member of the American Heart Association Palm Beach County board of directors. “The No. 1 thing I want people to know about stroke is to call 911 immediately when you notice symptoms. The faster you can get medical treatment, the more we can do to protect you from long-term effects.”
There are risk factors that increase likelihood of a stroke, including high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals reduce their risk of stroke by managing high blood pressure, quitting smoking, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. There is a stroke risk factor quiz available at Stroke.org, along with prevention and management resources.
“Just last month we had a survivor speak at one of our events about the stroke she had at her college graduation. She was just 21 years old when she had her stroke,” says Kayla Fox, executive director of the American Heart Association Palm Beach County. “It really can affect us at any age, which is why it’s critical to share those stories and spread awareness of symptoms. Through our work with the HCA Healthcare Foundation, we’re able to reach more area residents with resources to manage risk factors and lower the odds that they’ll ever have a stroke.”
For more information about preventing and managing strokes, visit Stroke.org.