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World Stroke Day: We Can Prevent Stroke

October 29 is World Stroke Day. This year, the World Stroke Organization is introducing a new slogan for this important health observance: “Because I care…” This theme reminds us that caring about ourselves, our families, and our friends is the key to preventing strokes and to helping those who experience a stroke.

Stroke is among the five leading causes of death for Americans.1 According to the World Stroke Organization, 1 of 6 people worldwide will have a stroke during their lifetime. This year's theme for World Stroke Day—"Because I care…— emphasizes that stroke is preventable. To expand the benefits of prevention, include your entire family.

Anyone can have a stroke, but certain behaviors and medical conditions can increase your risk for stroke. October 29 is World Stroke Day, a great day to remember that you can prevent the life-threatening consequences of stroke.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Because I care about my family, I will help them learn the signs and symptoms of stroke.

Sudden severe headache with no known cause may be sign or symptom of stroke.One of the best ways to help save lives from stroke is to know what a stroke looks like. Learning about stroke can help you act fast to save a co-worker, friend, or relative. Although stroke risk increases with age, strokes can—and do—occur at any age.

The five most common signs and symptoms of stroke are

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Signs of stroke begin suddenly. If your symptoms go away after a few minutes, you may have had a "mini-stroke,” also called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Although TIAs do not cause permanent damage, they are a warning sign of a future stroke and should not be ignored.

Act Fast to Help Someone Having a Stroke

Photo: A cellphoneBecause I care about my family, I will learn what to do when a stroke occurs.

If you or someone else experiences one or more signs of stroke, call 9-1-1 right away. Every minute counts! Stroke patients who arrive at the emergency room within 3 hours of their first symptoms are usually healthier 3 months after a stroke than people who receive delayed care.2

Talk to Your Health Care Team About Stroke Prevention

Because I care about my family, I will encourage regular health care visits.

If you have any medical conditions that increase your risk for stroke, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, there are steps you can take to lower your risk.

Make sure you and your family members have a physical or checkup every year, including checking cholesterol levels, monitoring blood pressure, and managing diabetes. (Under the Affordable Care Act, certain preventive health screenings are covered at no charge to you.)

Follow your health care team's instructions carefully when taking medications to treat your medical conditions. Ask questions if you don't understand something.

Practice Health Living Habits to Prevent Stroke

Because I care about my family, I will prepare healthy meals and be physically active.

Healthy eating. Both sodium (salt) and alcohol can raise your blood pressure if you have too much of them each day. Smoking cigarettes also raises your blood pressure. Eating foods high in cholesterol can build up fatty deposits, called plaque, on the walls of your blood vessels. These deposits can block the flow of blood to the brain, causing a stroke.

To help prevent stroke, prepare meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol in your meals. To help keep blood pressure in a healthy range, help family members avoid (or stop) smoking, and limit alcohol use to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

Physical activity. Being overweight or obese can raise total cholesterol levels, increase blood pressure, and lead to diabetes. But being physically active will help you and your family members maintain a healthy weight and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.

Stop Stroke in Your Community

Because I care about my neighbors, I will support community efforts to prevent stroke.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Million Hearts® initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. As part of the initiative, José shared his story of being temporarily paralyzed on the left side of his body and confined to a wheelchair after he had a stroke. José slowly recovered with the support of his wife and children. Family members and friends are the most important source of support for stroke survivors during recovery and rehabilitation.

You can share your commitment to heart disease and stroke prevention by taking the Million Hearts® pledge.

World Stroke Day brings together advocacy groups, survivor support networks, volunteer stroke societies, public health authorities, health care professionals, and community members to support and improve stroke education, advocacy, prevention, treatment, and long-term care and support for survivors.

Because you care… join us on World Stroke Day by making the commitment to prevent stroke for yourself and your family.

References

1. Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009. Nat Vital Stat Rep. 2011;60(3).

2. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127:e6–245.

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

 

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  • Page last reviewed: October 28, 2013
  • Page last updated: October 28, 2013
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