ROBBINSVILLE — African Americans are twice as likely to have a first-ever stroke compared to Caucasians, and cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for African-American men and women, killing nearly 100,000 annually in the United States. That is why during Black History Month and American Heart Month in February, the American Stroke Association, which is a division of the American Heart Association, is working to bring light to these staggering statistics and provide the tools to educate African-Americans on various ways they may reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain and is the No. 4 cause of death of all citizens in the U.S. Stroke is also a leading cause of disability. A stroke 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.
African Americans are at greater risk for cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, than any other ethnic group. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death for African Americans. In fact:
- 53% have high blood pressure diagnosed in their family
- 41% have diabetes in their family
- 70% feel knowledgeable about stroke, however, 75% gave an incorrect definition of stroke
- 88% did believe that stroke would have a high impact on the quality of their life
- The prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans in the United States is the highest in the world.
Only 31 percent of African Americans know the warning signs of stroke and knowing the signs of stroke is important as early intervention is most critical in effective stroke care. Call 911 immediately and act F.A.S.T.
F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs and symptoms of a stroke. F.A.S.T. is:
Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
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, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away,
call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
During February – when both Black History Month is celebrated and American Heart Month is recognized-the American Stroke association offers a number of tools to prevent and overcome stroke. Power To End Stroke is an education and awareness campaign that embraces and celebrates the culture, energy, creativity and lifestyles of African Americans. Live better in seven easy step and find out where you stand by taking the My Life Check at www.mylifecheck.org.
For information on stroke call 1-800-4-STROKE or go to www.strokeassociation.org. For more information on the American Stroke Association’s Power To End Stroke campaign visit www.powertoendstroke.org.