Stroke is the Third-Leading Cause of Death Among African Americans

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • It seems like each week I'm helping my son with a Martin Luther King, Jr. assignment. His English/Reading class has been studying the life of MLK since the observance of his birthday in January. Each week, I read a speech or article about some facet of his life and help my son write a report on it. So far, it's been really interesting. I always knew the basic history about MLK, who he was and what he stood for. But it's interesting to read about some things I didn't know about him. For instance, he was arrested at least 20 times and assaulted at least four times. He was also the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.

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    The entire month of February was Black History Month. While it's a time to recognize past achievements, it's also a time to focus on one of the greatest threats to African Americans, which is stroke. I spoke to a civic group about this threat not to long ago. According to the American Heart Association, stroke is the third-leading cause of death among African Americans and more than 100,000 will suffer one this year. The good news is that African Americans can get help to reduce their stroke risk through Power To End Stroke, a campaign sponsored by the American Stroke Association. It works when African Americans sign a pledge to make a commitment to reduce their stroke risk. Once they sign the stroke pledge, they may become Power To End Stroke ambassadors who help spread the messages about stroke. Some ways to spread awareness are through brochures, a risk assessment quiz, Family Reunion Toolkit, Power Sunday Church Toolkit and Healthy Soul Food Recipes cookbook.


    Doctors say African Americans are at a particularly higher risk for stroke because of their increased risk for hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Through the Power To End Stroke campaign, people can learn how to reduce these and other stroke risks. The campaign also teaches the community how to recognize five simple signs of stroke and to understand that getting to the hospital immediately can potentially reduce their suffering and disability from stroke. The five signs of stroke are sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headache with no known cause.


    You can hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message of freedom through the words of his daughter, the late Yolanda King: "We will only be truly free when we reach down to the inner depths of our own being and sign with the pen and ink of assertive self-hood, our own emancipation proclamation. No civil rights, no voting rights, no equal rights, no immigration rights are worth fighting for if we are dying from heart disease and stroke," she said while serving as a Power To End Stroke ambassador shortly after her mother, the late Coretta Scott King, suffered a stroke.


    For more information on the Power to End Stroke campaign visit

Published On: March 10, 2008