May is Stroke Awareness Month; know the signs; save a life

May is Stroke Awareness Month; know the signs; save a life

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Do you know the No. 4 cause of death in this country?

It's stroke, which also is one of the leading causes of disability in adults in the U.S.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month.

Those are important facts, but not the most important ones you should know, especially since someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Stroke also is considered to be a leading cause of disability among adults in the United States.

The groups say, on average, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes.

The thing the experts also want people to remember is that anyone can have a stroke at any age, regardless of risk factors.

Tucsonan Brittany Ford is 19. Last September at the age of 18 she had a stroke.

No risk factors.  No family history.  No one knows why.

"When, I had my stroke, I didn't notice it at all. My 14-year-old brother is actually the one who noticed the signs," Ford said. "The left side of my face was completely paralyzed and I had limited movement on my left side and a lot of drooling."

"Brittany is an unusual case because she was so young and didn't have any of the risks factors, but it's definitely not unheard of. We're having younger and younger people present with strokes, and frequently that's because of the increased risk factors," said Banner-University Medical Center Stroke Center Co-Director Dr. Kendra Drake.

Drake wants us all to memorize the symptoms of stroke.

Remember to act FAST.

That's F, for face drooping.

A, for arm weakness.

S, for speech difficulty, such as slurring or having difficulty getting the words out.

T, for Time. Call 911 immediately. Don't waste one minute getting to life-saving treatment.

"Time is brain. So every minute, every second that's lost with continuing symptoms is time where your brain cells are lost and they're dying," Drake said.

"Just get help as soon as possible. With the drug that saved my life, you only have a short window of time to get it," Ford said.

Drake said the ideal window is three hours.

Ford's brother realized what was happening to her, when she did not.

Drake said she tells her patients that, if they are alone, they should look in a mirror.

"I'm asking them to look at their face. Is it drooping on one side or the other, and also to have them hold their arms up and see if one arm is drifting lower than the other to indicate weakness of their arm," Drake said.

She said risk factors for stroke include personal history and family history of stroke. We can't do anything about that, but there are some things we can do to reduce other risks.

"High blood pressure is probably the most prevalent of those. High cholesterol is the second one, and diabetes is the third one," Drake said. "Smoking is also a very significant risk factor."

Drake said there are treatments and medications to help with all of those. Drake also recommends moderate exercise, a healthy diet, basically a healthy lifestyle.

"Just knowing the signs and what to watch for. I'm a lot more cautious, but I don't let it hold back from living my life," Ford said.

In fact, she plans to go into law enforcement. For now, she's saving lives by helping raise awareness.

"Be that one person to step forward and say, 'Hey, this is what's going on. We need to act now, not later.'  And if I can save one life with sharing my story, then I'd be happy," Ford said.

Banner-UMC is hosting a free stroke screening on Saturday, May 6, from 8 until 11:30 a.m., in its DuVal Auditorium, 1501 N. Campbell Avenue.

There still are a few slots open.

"The free Stroke Check screening includes a stroke-risk assessment, blood pressure reading, cholesterol and glucose tests and a review of results by a physician. Fasting for at least four hours is recommended for the cholesterol and glucose tests. Please call 520-694-6342 to pre-register. Parking is free," according to a Banner-UMC news release.

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