STATE — Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, celebrating the culture, contributions and history of Latinos. This year, the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, urges Latinos to take a moment during this time of celebration to learn about -and take action to reduce-their personal risk factors for stroke, the No. 4 leading cause of death of Hispanics on our nation.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain and occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it starts to die.
Hispanics often suffer strokes at younger ages than compared with non-Hispanic whites. Research shows that a high prevalence of risk factors in younger Hispanic adults can contribute to a higher incidence of stroke at an early age. While some risk factors can’t be helped, like family history, race or age, most can be modified, treated or controlled, including risks like obesity, smoking, uncontrolled blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Over 75% of Mexican Americans, age 20 and older, are considered overweight or obese while nearly 30% of Hispanics age 18 and older suffer with high blood pressure. Hispanics are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as compared with non-Hispanic whites of a similar age. Additionally, over 80% of Hispanic or Latinos age 18 and older do not meet the Federal Physical Activity Guidelines.
Another major concern is the lack of proper healthcare access among Hispanics.
“Some of the biggest challenges for many Latinos include lack of health insurance, language barriers and limited transportation which contributes to poor access to healthcare,” notes Mirian Medina, RN, stroke coordinator at Raritan Baby Medical Center in Perth Amboy and volunteer with the American Stroke Association. “Because of these factors, many Hispanics are unaware of the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease and stroke and delay treatment until there is a major medical emergency– even though preventative care could have made all the difference. ”
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has long recognized that the current crisis in our health care system threatens the mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The burden of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD) can be particularly problematic for those without health insurance or for those with inadequate coverage or access to care. The uninsured with CVD experience higher mortality rates and poorer blood pressure control. People who lack health insurance experience up to a 56 percent higher risk of death from stroke than those who are insured. The uninsured and under-insured are also less likely to take needed medications and to forego preventive care.
Although there may be challenges, the American Stroke Association recommends setting up an appointment with your doctor to discuss ways to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association \ American Stroke Association also provides a free online resource called My Life Check which provides a personal assessment for the risk of stroke and offers suggestions on tips to reduce these risk. This free assessment is available in English by visiting www.mylifecheck.org or in Spanish by visiting www.marcando7pasos.org/.
The American Stroke Association also urges everyone to learn the warning signs of a stroke and call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone around you exhibits any of the following:
- Sudden weakness in the face, arm or leg
- Sudden trouble speaking
- Sudden dizziness
- Sudden trouble seeing
- Sudden severe headache.
For more information in either English or Spanish, visit strokeassociation.org