JACKSONVILLE, FL – OCTOBER 29, 2021 – Friday, October 29th is World Stroke Day. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is encouraging Jacksonville area residents to join together to help end the No. 5 cause of death in the United States.

North Florida is considered part of the Stroke Belt, which refers to the southeast region with an unusually high incidence of stroke and other forms of vascular disease, such as heart disease.

More people under the age of fifty are having strokes due to obesity, increased risky behaviors, such as smoking, and untreated high blood pressure. One in four people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime and forty percent of black adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure and are twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians. Hispanics are more likely to suffer a stroke at a younger age than non-Hispanic Caucasians.

“The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us how fragile life can be, and how important the need is for focus on personal health in our lives and those of the ones we love,” said Ricardo Hanel, MD, PhD, neurosurgeon and co-medical director of the Baptist Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center inJacksonville, Florida. “Strokes are the No. 5 killer and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. World Stroke Day is a good time to raise awareness and improve your knowledge about how to recognize the signs of a stroke, and the risk factors that could cause one. Strokes can affect anyone at any age, and change a life forever.”

Jacksonville resident William O’Steen, 80, knows how life can change quickly. He was recently treated by Dr. Hanel for a blood clot in his brain, which paralyzed the left side of his body. When the stroke occurred, his wife, a former nurse, instantly recognized the signs—face drooping, slurred speech, couldn’t move his arm–and called 911. Within minutes of arrival at Baptist Jacksonville, Dr. Hanel diagnosed the brain clot. Treatment within a short timeframe was key to O’Steen’s successful procedure and return to a life free from lingering stroke effects.

O’Steen said, “I can remember being in the ambulance thinking I’d be dragging my leg and holding my arm the rest of my life, and that’s not what happened. The rapid response from the first responders, the hospital team and the surgeon was great. In a matter of hours I could speak coherently and had full use of my arm.”

You have the power to prevent stroke. Up to eighty percent of first strokes may be prevented with lifestyle adjustments and/or medication.

Here are five tips to reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness:

• Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. Get your blood pressure into a healthy range (120/80 or lower). High blood pressure is the No. 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage it through lifestyle changes and/or medication.
• Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure over time and improve brain function and heart health.
• Rest up. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night can improve brain function right away – and in the long term. Make it happen with a soothing bedtime routine and avoid screen time before bed.
• Meditate. Emerging science shows that practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may significantly reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain. A quick way to be mindful any time is to pause, notice your breath and take in little details in your surroundings.
• Take a walk. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. Adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a variety of those activities) for clear health benefits. In addition, two days per week of moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity is recommended.

Everyone needs to know the stroke warning signs and the importance of immediately calling 911. It’s easy with the acronym F.A.S.T. Knowing F.A.S.T. and responding quickly in a stroke emergency may mean the difference between recovery and disability.

• Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop, or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
• Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

• Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue.”
• Time to Call 911 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately. Check the time so you can tell emergency responders when the first symptoms appeared.

For more information, visit www.Stroke.org/WorldStrokeDay

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About the American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is a relentless force for a world with fewer strokes and longer, healthier lives. We team with millions of volunteers and donors to ensure equitable health and stroke care in all communities. We work to prevent, treat and beat stroke by funding innovative research, fighting for the public’s health, and providing lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based association was created in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit stroke.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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