Stroke: Despite the Statistics

According to the CDC,

  • 1 out of every 20 deaths in the US are caused by stroke
  • About 130,000 people a year die from a stroke
  • There’s an average of 1 death every 4 minutes in the US due to stroke
  • There is about 795,000 strokes a year with 610,000 of them being a first stroke
  • Around 185,000 strokes a year are in people that have had a prior stroke

Despite statistics such as these, many of us do not know our own risk factors for stroke or realize that ANYONE can have a stroke. This is why it is important to recognize the signs of a stroke and know what can be done to treat a stroke.

Most people know that a stroke is caused when brain cells die due to a lack of blood flow. In the US, 87 percent of all strokes are due to a blockage in a blood vessel, while 13 percent are due to bleeding within the brain. While we may think of older people being at higher risk for strokes, the truth is that 34 percent of all stroke victims are younger than 65 years old and even teenagers and children can suffer from a stroke.

Unfortunately, only about 38 percent of surveyed Americans knew the signs and symptoms of a stroke, and recognition is necessary for rapid treatment. F-A-S-T, the American Heart Association’s acronym to help identify stroke stands for:

Face – sudden facial droop

Arm – any sudden weakness of the arm (or leg)

Speech – sudden slurred or garbled speech

Time – note the time of onset and it is time to call 9-1-1

The sooner a stroke victim arrives at a Stroke Center, the more likely they are to have a good outcome. With tools such as tPA, a clot busting drug that can be administered through a vein, as well as devices that can be used to remove the clot directly from the artery, we now have the means to reduce the damage and disability from what has been a devastating condition.

The tools available to you include knowing your own risk factors for stroke, and modifying that risk by acting appropriately. Both men and women can have a stroke. Some other characteristics that you cannot control, can affect your risk for stroke:

  • Age. The older you are, the more likely you are to have a stroke. The chance of having a stroke about doubles every 10 years after age 55. Although stroke is common among the elderly, many people younger than 65 years also have strokes.
  • Sex. Stroke is more common in men than in women for most age groups. However, women of all ages are more likely to die from stroke than men are.
  • Race or ethnicity. Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives have a greater chance of having a stroke than do non-Hispanic whites or Asians. The risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks than for whites. Blacks are also more likely to die from stroke than are whites.

The good news is that most strokes may be prevented by working with your healthcare team to reduce your risk.