For Kentuckians, the need to know the risk factors, warning signs and symptoms of stroke is more critical than in many states. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and Saint Joseph Martin, part of KentuckyOne Health, is working to educate the community and reduce the occurrence of stroke in the commonwealth.
Kentucky is a part of the “stroke belt,” a collection of southeastern states that rank above the national average in stroke mortality (death) rates. According to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control, Kentucky had the 11th highest stroke mortality rate in the nation and stroke accounted for five percent of all deaths in the state.
“The occurrence of stroke in Kentucky is alarming and even more so when you consider that such a large percentage of strokes could be avoided by appropriately managing risk factors,” said Anwar Abdeen, MD, emergency medicine physician, Saint Joseph Martin.
Kentucky ranks above the national average in the occurrence of the modifiable risk factors (risk factors that can be controlled) that can lead to stroke, which include:
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Lack of exercise
• Being overweight or obese
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. During a stroke, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. Receiving medical attention quickly during a stroke can reduce the amount of brain damage and subsequent disability. Research shows that 1.9 million neurons are lost each minute of a stroke.
“With stroke, time saved is brain saved,” said Kerri Remmel, MD, PhD, director, University of Louisville Hospital Stroke Center, part of KentuckyOne Health, and Interim Chair & Chief of Vascular Neurology, University of Louisville Department of Neurology. “Across the state, medical leaders must continue to work together to deploy the resources needed in local hospitals to help stroke victims get care promptly.”
One of the state’s leading experts on stroke, Dr. Remmel serves as the State Stroke Champion for Kentucky and as co-chair of the Kentucky Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force. University of Louisville Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, is the first facility in the state, and the 20th in the nation, to earn an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center designation from The Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations and hospitals.
Warning signs and common symptoms of stroke include:
• Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg-especially along one side of the body
• Sudden confusion
• Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
• Sudden difficulty speaking or trouble understanding speech
• Sudden severe headache with no known cause
• Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness, or sudden falls, especially with any of the other signs
Recognizing and responding to these symptoms right away could save a life. Call 911 immediately if you see anyone experiencing any of these symptoms, or are experiencing them yourself.
Emergency departments are the “front line” for stroke care. Most can provide intravenous tPA, drugs that breaks up the blood clot causing the stroke, if a patient arrives within hours of the onset of symptoms.
For patients who arrive at the emergency department more than three hours after a stroke, alternative treatments are employed which utilize the expertise of a comprehensive stroke center.
“Our emergency department is equipped and trained to take immediate action in the incidence of stroke,” said Anwar Abdeen, MD. “It’s important to be vigilant and act fast when stroke symptoms are present.”
To build awareness about stroke and other health concerns, Saint Joseph Martin is teaming up with Big Sandy Health Care, Floyd County Board of Education, Floyd County Family Resource Youth Services Centers, Floyd County Health Department, and Highlands Regional Medical Center to sponsor four health fairs - Project Care Across the Community - for Floyd County.
Project Care Across the Community will kick-off at the Floyd County Health Department on Wednesday, May 22nd and continue on Thursday, May 23rd; the following events are as follows: South Floyd High School – Tuesday, June 11th and Wednesday, June 12th; Betsy Layne Elementary – Thursday, June 27th and Friday, June 28th; and, Allen Central High School – Tuesday, July 16th and Wednesday, July 17th. All events will begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m.
As the largest health care provider in the commonwealth, KentuckyOne Health is committed to improving the health of both individuals and entire communities.