May is National Stroke Awareness Month. About 780,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death in the United States, behind diseases of the heart and cancer. Americans will pay about $65.5 billion in 2008 for stroke-related medical costs and disability.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood to the brain is either blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke) or ruptures (hemorrhagic stroke.) When a stroke occurs and blood flow doesnt reach the region of the brain that controls a particular body function, that part of the body wont work normally.
More than half a million strokes can be prevented. Understanding what you can do to reduce your risk can decrease your chances of having a stroke. Anyone can have a stroke. Certain risk factors increase your chance of having a stroke. Some of these risk factors are beyond your control such as being over age 55, being male, being African American or Hispanic, or having a past family history of stroke. Other risk factors are controllable such as not exercising, having an irregular heartbeat, poor control of diabetes or hypertension, being over-weight, smoking, or having high cholesterol.
The American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Academy of Neurology, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association have developed a stroke collaborative known as Give Me 5. This is an effort to increase awareness among Americans of stroke symptoms.
Give Me 5 is a quick stroke check:
- Walk: Is their balance off?
- Talk: Is their speech slurred or face droopy?
- Reach: Is one side weak or numb?
- See: Is their vision all or partly lost?
- Feel: Is their headache severe?
If the answer is yes to any of the items on this checklist, you should call 9-1-1 and get to the emergency department. The week of May 18-24th marks the 35th annual National Emergency Medical Services Week. This is an opportunity for local communities and prehospital providers to join together to promote safety and prevention as well as honor the dedication of those who provide state-of-the-art emergency care to you and your loved ones. The theme of this years celebration is EMS: Your Life is Our Mission.
The weeklong series of events will include national and local activities to recognize the emergency medical services teams who are ready to provide lifesaving care to those in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The emergency services system consists of emergency physicians, emergency nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and first responders. The members of emergency medical services teams, whether career or volunteer, engage in thousands of hours of specialized training and continuing education to enhance their lifesaving skills.
Take this opportunity to honor and thank the emergency medical services teams of your community who are available every hour of everyday when you or a loved one may need them. On behalf of Mount Nittany Medical Center, I would like to extend best wishes to our local emergency medical services providers.
Kasandra Botti, DO, FACEP, is the medical director of the prehospital services department at Mount Nittany Medical Center and a physician in the emergency department.