Spreading Stroke Awareness Among Family
I'm on the road again. I'm returning home from yet another family vacation, this time with my side of the family. We spent a week along the Gulf Coast, near Rosemary Beach in Florida. We had a great time and great weather. So far, the trip home is going well for me and my husband. But for my parents and brother's family - not so much. They were in a car accident just outside of Mobile, Alabama. My brother called from his cell phone and my heart sank. Luckily, everyone was okay, including my son, who was traveling home with them to spend time with other family members during the summer. It wasn't my brother's fault, though; unfortunately, it was some young driver who decided to cut him off too close. Everthing is fine, his insurance should cover the damages - it's just the last thing you want to hear when you know you're loved ones are on the road. As for the two of us, we continued home to West Virginia, while they are having to stay a couple of days to get their van repaired.
Going through a life-threatening situation like a stroke, I tend to make the most out of every visit with my family members. That means playing that extra game of Scrabble with my 8-year-old niece, for example, even though I was too tired, or getting up early to have coffee with my mom every morning because I want to spend that extra time with her. When I say "goodbye," I tend to hold that hug a little too long. I guess when you nearly die, you realize how precious each day is and how it could be over in the blink of an eye, whether it's from a stroke or a car accident.
Spending time with family members should always be enjoyable, but it's also a time to help them become aware of the dangers of heart disease and stroke. Knowing what I know now, encourages me to educate my family members about stroke risks and the five simple signs. They include sudden numbness of the face, arm, or leg, sudden confusion, sudden trouble seeing, sudden trouble walking or sudden severe headache. Notice each one is sudden, which is how fast your life can change. So, I hope all families know the dangers, even if stroke hasn't affected your family, because you never know who it could hit (like it hit me).
That's why the American Heart Association encourages people to reduce their stroke risk, especially African Americans. Stroke is the third-leading cause of death among African Americans, and more than 100,000 will suffer one this year. African Americans are at a particularly higher risk for stroke because of their increased risk for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. But, there is help to reduce stroke risk through the Power To End Stroke, an educational campaign of the American Stroke Association, a division of the AHA. The association encourages African Americans to sign a pledge to make a commitment to reduce their stroke risk. Once signing the stroke pledge, they may become Power To End Stroke ambassadors, who help spread the messages about stroke. Power To End Stroke tools include brochures, a risk assessment quiz, Family Reunion Toolkit, Power Sunday Church Toolkit and Healthy Soul Food Recipes cookbook.
The Family Reunion Toolkit helps spread stroke awareness to family members, while the Power Sunday Church Toolkit focuses more on members of the community. The 46 Healthy Soul Food Recipes Cookbook contains healthy variations to traditional soul food recipes.
Lessons Learned: Be thankful for each family reunion you are able to attend and help your family live longer and stronger in return. Right now, I'm just thankful my family is safe for today.