Do you know if you’re at risk of having a stroke?
If you don’t, you could be in a crowd you don’t want to join.
Only 31 percent of blacks (compared to 40 percent of whites) know the warning signs of stroke – despite being almost twice as likely to suffer one, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2009.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association hopes to combat stroke’s staggering toll on U.S. blacks – more than 100,000 suffer a stroke each year – with its Power to End Stroke campaign that includes various initiatives to educate and empower African Americans to reduce their risks and improve their health.
“We have to make sure that people know the signs and symptoms of stroke because a person must get to the hospital as soon as possible to have a much higher chance of survival and avoiding potential disabilities,” said Jing Fang, M.D., the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the CDC in Atlanta, Ga.
“We were really surprised to see that people who have had a stroke were less aware of symptoms than those who had not had a stroke.” People who have suffered a stroke or even a heart attack are at increased risk for another one. Willie Johnson, an Ohio resident who had his first in a series of three strokes in 2007, knows well the critical need to know the signs and symptoms of stroke.
“When I suffered a stroke, I didn’t know the warning signs,” said Johnson, “I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t realize how significant it was that I get to a hospital immediately. The people around me didn’t recognize that I was having a stroke either.”
“If I had gotten to the hospital sooner, I may have been able to prevent the disability I suffered from the stroke.”
The warning 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
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Only 37 percent of all respondents knew all five warning signs and knew to call 9-1-1 immediately if any occurred.
“If we want to improve awareness, we must be more focused on educating those at increased risk and those who have the least knowledge about the symptoms,” said Johnson.
For information on Power to End Stroke, visit PowerToEndStroke.org. The Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi Pharmaceuticals partnership is the national sponsor of Power to End Stroke.