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California Area Office logoCalifornia Area Office

May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Image of Margo Kerrigan

Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

May is designated as National Stroke Awareness Month. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked or bursts causing damage to brain cells. Strokes are one of the leading causes of death each year in the United States and American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are 60% more likely to suffer a stroke than White adults.

It is estimated that 80% of strokes are preventable by engaging in a healthy lifestyle and working with your doctor to treat or control diseases that put you at risk for stroke. Some of the diseases that can put you at risk include:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup on artery walls)
  • Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heartbeat caused by the two upper chambers of the heart beating rapidly and unpredictably)

    Certain lifestyle factors such as tobacco use/smoking, heavy alcohol use, physical inactivity, and obesity also put you at increased risk of stroke.

    If symptoms of a stroke appear, immediate medical care is needed to reduce the damage to the brain. It is important to note the time of the very first symptoms so doctors can best decide on treatment options. Symptoms of a stroke include:

    Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially if it is only on one side of the body

  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes
  • Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache without a known cause

    The acronym FAST is often useful in helping people remember the signs of a stroke:

    F: Face - drooping of one side of the face

    A: Arms - weakness in one of the arms when raised

    S: Speech - slurred or strange speech

    T: Time - if any of the above symptoms are observed, call 911 immediately

    For more information, visit:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

    American Stroke Association: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

    National Stroke Association: http://www.stroke.org/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov
     

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