Friday, 21 May 2021 10:49

FirstHealth recognizes National Stroke Awareness Month

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Dr. Melanie Blacker; Stroke Cooridinator Barbara Mcgrath, R.N. Dr. Melanie Blacker; Stroke Cooridinator Barbara Mcgrath, R.N. FirstHealth

PINEHURST — Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. FirstHealth of the Carolinas urges the community to understand their stroke risk this May, in recognition of National Stroke Awareness Month. 


In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies from stroke every four minutes. Nearly 80 percent of strokes are preventable through lifestyle changes, and it’s important to know your specific risk factors said FirstHealth stroke coordinator Barbara McGrath, R.N.

“The biggest medical risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure, which can be reduced with lifestyle changes or medicine,” she said. “Tobacco use, diabetes, lack of physical activity and diet are additional risk factors that contribute to stroke that can easily be altered to reduce risk.”

Stroke can still strike even with risk factor reduction and proper lifestyle modifications. It is important to know the signs of a stroke so individuals can seek care immediately. Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first symptoms have less likelihood of disability after a stroke, reported the CDC. Using the acronym BE FAST can help people determine when its time to call 911.

B – Sudden loss of balance? 

E – Sudden blurred or double vision, or vision loss in one or both eyes? 

F – Sudden drooping on one side of the face? 

A – Sudden weakness or numbness in one arm? 

S – Sudden speech loss, slurred speech, or trouble understanding? 

T – It’s time to call 911 if one or more of these stroke signs is present. 

FirstHealth neuro hospitalist Melanie Blacker, M.D., added that sudden, severe headache could also present as a stroke symptom. “Stroke is a medical emergency. If people brush off these symptoms or wait to seek medical care there’s a greater risk of brain damage,” she said.   

Up to two million brain cells die every minute a stroke is left untreated, which can affect a person’s ability to move, speak, eat and control vital body functions. “Delaying medical attention is the most common reason patients aren’t eligible to receive treatment for stroke,” McGrath said. 

Stroke is serious and symptoms are always urgent. Learn more about stroke and your risk factors at www.firsthealth.org/stroke.