World Stroke Day


World Stroke Day: More Education Needed on Stroke Symptoms, Risk Factors and Prevention

Baptist Health Miami Neuroscience Institute

About every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. And every three minutes or so, someone dies of a stroke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One in four of individuals worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime, but the vast majority can be prevented by taking action to reduce manageable risk factors. Sunday, Oct. 29, is World Stroke Day 2023, which is designed to educate everyone about symptoms, risk factors and the necessary, immediate actions to help someone who is experiencing a stroke.

Worldwide, deaths from strokes could reach about 9.7 million a year by 2050, which would be a nearly 50 percent jump from 2020 levels, according to a new analysis from the World Stroke Organization-Lancet Neurology Commission.

While recent trends have pointed to a troubling increase of strokes among young adults, the majority of people carry an increasing risk as they age. Nonetheless, anyone can have a stroke at any age.

Felipe De Los Rios La Rosa, M.D., stroke program director at Baptist Health Miami Neuroscience Institute.

Stroke is the No. 5 leading cause of death in the U.S. Certain factors can increase your chances of having a stroke, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and a family history. And the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from a stroke is to understand your risks and how to control them.

Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed. It accounts for nearly 90 of all strokes. At least 10 percent of strokes are much deadlier -- hemorrhagic strokes. They occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. The two types of weakened blood vessels that usually cause hemorrhagic stroke are aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). The most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled high blood pressure.

There have been significant advances in treating all strokes quickly and efficiently if someone gets emergency medical care as soon as symptoms begin. But despite ongoing, year-round education campaigns to educate the public about symptoms and risk factors, much of the public are not aware of the vital differences between heart attack symptoms and those of a stroke, explains Felipe De Los Rios La Rosa, M.D., stroke program director at Baptist Health’s Miami Neuroscience Institute.

Baptist Hospital, in partnership with Miami Neuroscience Institute, was the first hospital in South Florida certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. This is the nation’s highest level of stroke accreditation.

“The data has been rather suboptimal,” said Dr. De Los Rios. “You’d expect that more people would know about stroke -- but not really. Even with F.A.S.T., the level of community knowledge on stroke signs and symptoms has not changed much over the last decade or so. People are much more in tune to heart attacks, which you see dramatized more often on television or in the movies. So it continues to be vital to keep educating the public about stroke”.

A large majority of strokes can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes such as moving more, healthy eating, managing blood pressure, getting healthy sleep, and quitting smoking and vaping. Talk to your doctor about managing your stroke risk factors to help prevent a stroke.

“This is a disease that's associated with aging and we continue to refine the therapies available for acute stroke,” explains Dr. De Los Rios. “There are new therapies even for the deadliest strokes -- hemorrhagic strokes -- this is very encouraging.  However, the window of time for treatment from the onset of symptoms is small. It is still very, very important to give treatment early. And that starts with recognizing the signs of strokes.”

When a patient arrives in the ER with stroke symptoms, a team consisting of emergency room physicians, neurologists and neuroradiologists diagnose the condition as quickly as possible and treat it with the most advanced clot-busting medications, such as a tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. In addition to this treatment, neurologists will work closely with other specialists to use the latest treatment techniques and devices, including endovascular treatment, for removing blood clots or plaque from inside arteries.

Signs of a Stroke

“It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and F.A.S.T. (see below for details) is just as relevant now as ever,” said Dr. De Los Rios. “And then what you need to do, if any of those signs or symptoms is present, is to call 911 so they can take the person to the nearest, capable stroke care center, not just any center.”

Researchers have developed a new Spanish acronym aimed to raise awareness of stroke symptoms in the Hispanic community. Known as RÁPIDO, it aims to replicate the popular F.A.S.T. mnemonic that exists in English.

Here are the top signs of a stroke, according to the American Stroke Association:

F – Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A – Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S – 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.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T – Time to call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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