To the editor:
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of severe, long-term disability. In fact, more than 700,000 people suffer a stroke each year — about one person every 45 seconds.
May is American Stroke Month. This is an important opportunity to highlight the risk factors and warning signs for stroke, and to emphasize that seeking immediate treatment can mean the difference between life and death.
Stroke is not inevitable, and it does not have to be deadly or debilitating. Stroke can be prevented by awareness of personal risk factors, and working with a doctor to eliminate or manage those risks. If even one warning sign is experienced, rehabilitation and survival are probable if prompt medical attention is sought.
To help prevent a stroke, the American Stroke Association recommends the following guidelines.
Maintain a healthy weight through diet and physical activity, control high blood pressure, do not smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke. Treat disorders that increase the risk of stroke, such as diabetes, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure.
Signs of stroke include the sudden appearance of any of these symptoms: weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body; dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye; loss of speech, trouble talking or comprehending speech; severe headache with no apparent cause; unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness, or a fall. If even one of these symptoms is experienced or observed, it is crucial that medical attention is sought immediately by calling 911.
I encourage everyone to pause during American Stroke Month and consider their health. A variety of helpful tips can be found at www.strokeassociation.org or by calling (888) 478-7653. Now is the time to make the pledge to prevent stroke.
Lives depend on it.
Colleen Lechtenberg, MD
Kansas State Stroke Task Force
University of Kansas Hospital