Stroke accounts for an estimated 1 of every 19 deaths in the United States. On average, someone dies of a stroke every 3 and a half minutes. Strokes disproportionately affect women. The data shows that about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year.
When a stroke occurs, seconds matter. The American Heart Association recommends watching for the F.A.S.T. Warning Signs of stroke and call 9-1-1 immediately if you recognize these symptoms. They are:
|F||Face Drooping||Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?|
|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?|
|T||Time||Time to call 911.|
Hypertension often called the silent killer, is the most prominent risk factor for stroke. The currently recognized blood pressure categories are:
|SYSTOLIC mm Hg
|DIASTOLIC mm Hg
|Normal||Less than 120||And||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120 – 129||And||Less than 80|
High blood pressure
(Stage 1 hypertension)
|130 – 139||Or||80 – 89|
High blood pressure
(Stage 2 hypertension)
|140 or higher||Or||90 or higher|
(A medical emergency, consult a healthcare professional immediately)
|Higher than 180||And/or||Higher than 120|
Other risk factors for stroke include cardiovascular disease, abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation, diabetes, smoking, a history of transient ischemic attacks, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, illegal drugs use, and older age.
In 2021, the American Heart Association published new guidelines for the prevention of stroke in patients with stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA). These recommendations address the management of vascular risk factors in secondary stroke prevention, including (but not limited to) diabetes, smoking cessation, lipids, and hypertension.
The recommendations may be found here.
Patient resources about stroke may be found here
Photo courtesy of the American Heart Association