World Stroke Day: Ending Stroke through Education and Awareness
Why is it that we realize we take life for granted only after it's almost lost? After my stroke in 2001, that's how I felt. When I finally got out of the hospital, suddenly I discovered the sky was more blue, food tasted better, and moments with my family, especially my son, were much sweeter. I think it's because we get so caught up in our day-to-day routines, whether its work or school. Getting our to-do lists done takes priority over enjoying the fact we are alive. I think that is the message I try to get across to people; enjoy life now and don't wait until you almost lose it. And if you are already living life to the fullest, wouldn't you want to prolong it for as long as you can?
That's why on World Stroke Day, I want to talk about how you can prevent a stroke. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability. Worldwide, stroke is second to ischemic heart disease as a cause of death. A stroke changes lives, whether it happens to you or to someone you love. But the good news is that stroke is preventable, because many of the risk factors for stroke are preventable. The important risk factors you can control or treat include smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight or obese, and physical inactivity.
However, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have joined together with other organizations around the world to send a message about the most common of those risk factors; high blood pressure. And what's amazing to me is that high blood pressure affects about 72 million people in the United States, of which 70% don't have it under control. Strokes caused by high blood pressure can affect men and women equally. However, those at the highest risk are people with ancestry from Latin America, Africa or Asia. There are many programs out there to help people get their blood pressure under control, either through the American Heart Association or your own doctor. The important thing is to get it under control now in order to prevent problems later.
Even if you have addressed all your risk factors, a stroke can still happen. I know all too well. I didn't have any risk factors, but doctors still found a blood clot behind my left ear. What saved my life was acting quickly. I went to the hospital right after I had my first symptom. Those symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, sudden confusion and difficulty speaking, sudden trouble seeing, sudden trouble walking or loss of balance or sudden severe headache.
So on this World Stroke Day, I hope to raise more awareness about stroke, it's effects and how we all have the power to end it!