American Heart Association pushes to help prevent strokes and save lives

NORFOLK, Va. – Tuesday, October 29 is World Stroke Day. It’s a push by the American Heart Association to help prevent strokes and save lives.

“Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States,” said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light. “Approximately 800,000 strokes occur annually.”

According to the American Heart Association, one in four people worldwide will have as stroke in their lifetime, but 80 percent of first-time strokes may be prevented.

“There are two types of risk factors: lifestyle and genetic,” explained Dr. Light. “Genetic risk factors include age, race, sex and family history. People with the highest genetic risk are African-American  males 55 and older.”

He continued, “Lifestyle factors are smoking, alcoholism, drug use, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.”

Dr. Light said there are five common signs and symptoms of a stroke, and they all occur suddenly.

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg.
  • Confusion or trouble speaking
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, or loss of balance
  • Severe headache

“If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately,” urged Dr. Light. “With timely treatment the risk of death and disability is significantly lowered.”

Dr. Light said the risk of stroke can be lowered by a healthy lifestyle.

“A healthy lifestyle starts with a health diet, regular exercise, maintenance of ideal body weight, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake,” said Dr. Light. “People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or ​with a history of previous stroke or heart attack should take their medication as prescribed to keep these conditions under control.”

Stroke hit home for MeShall Hills, the executive director of the Hampton Roads affiliate of the American Heart Association.  Her mother suffered a stroke.  A grocery store cashier, who was recently trained in F.A.S.T., saved her mother’s life.

“She went to the grocery store [and] started to have some facial drooping,” explained Hills. “She didn’t know [her face was drooping]. She just knew she didn’t feel well. She started to have some slurred speech.”

Hills said the checker noticed the signs and called 911.

“Because of someone who was trained, my mom was able to get that lifesaving medicine she needed,” said Hills.

Hills said her family has worked to embrace healthier habits.

“It’s really about making small changes that lead to a bigger impact,” she said.

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