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Stroke: Preventable, Treatable and Beatable

AafedtEvery 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and the leading cause of adult long-term disability. It can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age. But, annually, more women suffer from strokes than men, and twice as many African-Americans suffer from strokes than Caucasians.

Between the years of 2006-2010, 600 people died from stroke (fifth leading cause of death in the county). Other statistics:

  • In 2010, worldwide prevalence of stroke was 33 million, with 16.9 million people having a first stroke. Stroke was the second-leading global cause of death behind heart disease, accounting for 11.13 percent of total deaths worldwide.
  • Stroke kills someone in the U.S. about once every four minutes.
  • African-Americans have nearly twice the risk for a first-ever stroke than Caucasians, and a much higher death rate from stroke.
  • In the past 10 years, the death rate from stroke has fallen about 35 percent.
  • About 795,000 people have a stroke every year.
  • Someone in the U.S. has a stroke about once every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke causes one of every 20 deaths in the U.S.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of disability.
  • Stroke is the leading preventable cause of disability.


While the statistics may seem grim, the good news is that stroke is largely preventable, treatable and beatable.

A stroke occurs when blood flow and oxygen is blocked from getting to the brain – usually caused by a blood clot or broken blood vessel. When this happens, brain cells begin to die, and brain damage occurs. This can affect speech and understanding, movement and strength of the legs and arms, swallowing, thinking skills and bowel and bladder function.


How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. For example, one person who has a stroke may only experience minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg, while another person may become paralyzed on one side or lose his or her ability to speak and may have difficulty swallowing.

While some risk factors for stroke such as age, race, gender and family history can’t be controlled, 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented through controllable risk factors.

Some ways to lower your stroke risk include:

  • Manage your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major stroke risk if left untreated.
  • Eat healthy. Incorporate low-fat, nutritious foods into your diet, including five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week of physical activity.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol use has been linked to strokes in many studies.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke by damaging blood vessel walls, speeding up artery clogging and raising blood pressure.
  • Lower your cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that can clog arteries.
  • Lose excessive weight. Excess weight strains the circulatory system.


In addition, meet regularly with your family doctor to discuss and manage any ongoing issues. Know and share your family history and be sure to discuss your risks and any symptoms you may be experiencing.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be having a stroke, acting fast is critical to saving a life. Use the FAST test to remember warning signs of a stroke and what to do:


  • Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms – Ask the person to lift both arms. Does one drift downward?
  • Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech

slurred or strange?

  • Time – If you observe any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.


If someone is having a stroke, time is critical. If you can get help quickly, there is a medication that may reduce long-term disability for the person having the stroke if it’s administered within three hours of the first symptom…so don’t hesitate to call for help.


Your quick thinking and reaction could make a significant impact on that person’s life. QCBN

Erin Aafedt, MA CCC-SLP


Erin Aafedt, MA CCC-SLP, is director of therapy operations at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.


Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital is a 40-bed, free-standing rehabilitation hospital that provides intensive physical rehabilitation services to patients recovering from strokes, brain, spinal cord, and orthopedic injuries, and other impairments as a result of injury or illness. For more information, visit MVRRH.ernesthealth.com.


3700 N. Windsong • Prescott Valley, AZ 86314 • (P) 928-759-8800• (F) 928-775-7781 • MVRRH.ernesthealth.com


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