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According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. One in four people will experience a stroke in their lifetime. Although frightening, knowing the signs of stroke—and getting treatment at the closest facility—can help save lives.

A blocked or ruptured artery causes a stroke, also known as a “brain attack.” The minutes between the beginning of a stroke and receiving emergency medical care can be critical to a patient’s outcome. “Time is brain.”


“BE FAST” is a simple phrase to help quickly identify the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. A stroke can occur following the sudden onset of one or more of the following symptoms.

  • Balance – Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Eyes – Sudden change in vision
  • Face – Facial drooping or weakness on one side, uneven smile
  • Arm –  Sudden arm or leg weakness or numbness, typically on one side of the body
  • Speech – Sudden slurred speech, trouble speaking or trouble understanding speech
  • Time – to call 911 if the person shows any of the symptoms outlined above. Even if the symptoms improve or resolve, it is still important to call 911 to get to a hospital immediately. The faster a stroke is diagnosed and treated, the greater likelihood of a positive outcome.

Additional symptoms of stroke may include sudden confusion or sudden severe headache with no known cause.

stroke prevention
Credit: Ascension Wisconsin

Calling 911 immediately allows emergency responders to notify the hospital of your arrival and activate the stroke response team so they can be ready and waiting for you. This saves valuable minutes which can minimize the long-term effects of stroke and even prevent death.

Thanks to advancements in medicine and artificial intelligence imaging technology, stroke treatments and survival rates have improved tremendously in the last decade. Remember, B.E. F.A.S.T., and don’t delay care.

Who is at high risk?

The first step in stroke prevention is thinking about our overall health. Up to 80% of strokes may be preventable, according to the American Stroke Association. Making significant improvements to things we can control such as our diets, physical activity and high blood pressure can lower our risk.

  • People with high blood pressure have a significantly higher risk of stroke.
    • A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80.
    • More than one in three American adults with high blood pressure don’t know they have it. It is important to regularly check your blood pressure and speak with your doctor to do what’s necessary to maintain healthy levels.
  • One in five women will have a stroke.
    • Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the number one cause of death in women.
    • Women ages 35 and younger are 44% more likely to have the most common type of stroke (ischemic) than men.
    • Black, pregnant women are 57% more likely to have a stroke than women of other races, according to a study from the Journal of the American Heart Association. This is a result of Black women having a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, including hypertension.
    • Black women have more than double the risk of pre-pregnancy hypertension compared to white and Hispanic women, putting them at higher risk for high blood pressure and preeclampsia during pregnancy.

Get Heart Healthy

A healthy heart can lower your chances of a stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of Americans live with one of three key risk factors for heart disease. Heart disease and stroke can result in serious illness, disability, a decreased quality of life and even death.

stroke prevention
Credit: Ascension Wisconsin

The American Heart Association has a list of advice patients can follow to achieve ideal heart health:

  • Improve your diet: The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium, and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly: Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine to remain heart-healthy. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times per week.
  • Stop smoking: Being smoke-free can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as cancer and chronic lung disease.
  • Limit your alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the chances of a stroke. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Experts recommend no more than two drinks per day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For overweight or obese adults with other risk factors such as high blood pressure, a weight loss of 3-5% of body weight can produce clinically significant results against heart disease prevention.
  • Manage health conditions: Manage health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Each of these are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and all can be managed through a healthy diet, physical activity, and in some cases, medication.
  • Keep a journal: Take up journaling to capture the healthy foods and exercises you enjoy. Keep a daily record to help you stay on track and reach important milestones on your health and wellness journey.
  • Mental health: Don’t be afraid to seek counseling if you’re grieving, dealing with some type of loss or experiencing separation anxiety. Studies show that maintaining safe social relationships can improve our mental and physical health.

Advanced stroke care with Ascension All Saints Hospital

When seconds count, doctors at Ascension All Saints stroke centers work quickly to understand the cause of your symptoms and deliver the care you need. Ascension All Saints is a Joint Commission Certified Primary Stroke Center, in addition to offering patient-centered care at its inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation stroke clinics on campus.

stroke prevention
William P. Bake, DO – Credit: Ascension Wisconsin

William P. Bake, DO is a Neurologist with Ascension Medical Group. He sees patients at Ascension All Saints Hospital – Medical Office Buildings A & B – Spring Street Campus, located at 3805 B Spring St., Suite 320, in Racine. For appointments, call 262-687-8322.


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