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Nurse Alice: May is American Stroke Month

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(Image: iStock/monkeybusinessimages)

As America’s favorite nurse and a cardiac clinical nurse specialist, I have seen firsthand the symptoms, treatment, and outcomes of people who have had a stroke. And personally, I watched my own father have a stroke.

No one is ever fully prepared in these situations but you can be informed so that if it happens to you or someone you know, you’ll be familiar with the signs of a stroke, what to do right away if you suspect someone is having a stroke, and how to decrease the chances of it happening to you.

Did you know?

  • Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.
  • A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Every 4 minutes someone dies from stroke.
  • Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.   

 What is a stroke?

A stroke is similar to a heart attack but instead of attacking the heart, it is a “brain attack.” It occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.

High blood pressure is the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. And considering 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure, this is concerning.

Reduce your chances of having a stroke.

You can decrease your chances of having a stroke with good blood pressure management, which includes taking medicine as prescribed, not smoking, keeping your blood sugar controlled, having a diet low in saturated fats and sodium, exercising regularly (most days of the week), and losing weight if you are overweight.

Is a stroke treatable?

It’s important to know that a stroke is largely treatable. The faster you are treated, the more likely you are to recover.  Stroke patients who receive the clot-busting drug alteplase (IV r-tPA) within 90 minutes of symptom onset are almost three times more likely to recover with little or no disability than those who don’t. And 91% of stroke patients who were treated with a stent retriever within 2.5 hours of symptom onset recovered with little or no disability.

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End stroke today

Together, the American Stroke Association, along with family, friends, neighbors and health professionals are working to end stroke. The aim of American Stroke Month is to make Americans aware that they may be able to save the life of a person experiencing a stroke.

It’s important for the public to know how to identify someone who may be having a stroke and act F.A.S.T.

F.A.S.T is an acronym of the most common stroke symptoms.

If you see:

F- Face:  Does the face droop on one side when the person smiles?

A – Arm:  After raising both arms, does one of the arms drift downwards?

S – Speech:  After repeating a simple phrase, does the person’s speech sound slurred or

T – Time: If any or all of the above are observed, call 9-1-1 immediately, because a patient has about 3 hours to get to an appropriate hospital to be assessed for treatments that may prevent disability and death.

Visit StrokeAssociation.org/strokemonth to learn more about stroke, find a full list of stroke warning signs, and join others in “Together to End Stroke™.”


nurse_aliceNurse Alice is a nationally board-certified and award-winning cardiac clinical nurse specialist with nearly two decades of experience in cardiovascular health. She is a community health activist and freelance media health expert. She has appeared on various national radio and TV shows including Dr. Oz, The Doctors, Dr. Drew, News One with Roland Martin, Tom Joyner Morning Show, and more. She is also the author of “Curb Your Cravings: 31 Foods to Fool Your Appetite.”You can follow her at AskNurseAlice.com and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @AskNurseAlice

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