Last month, during National Stroke Awareness Month, FMH employees had the opportunity to learn more about strokes through our Employee Wellness Program. One statement made by FMH Stroke Program Coordinator Mike McLane truly stuck with me:
Even though the “Stroke Belt” (where there are more stroke-related deaths than anywhere else in the country) runs through the southeastern United States and does not include Maryland, Frederick County could be the capital.
In Frederick, 59.6 of every 100,000 deaths are due to stroke. Compare that to the Maryland state average of 53.5 or the national average of 53.2 and it’s clear there’s something going on here in Frederick.
The trend isn’t good, either. In 2006, FMH had 341 patients admitted for treatment related to stroke. The number has been creeping up ever since:
- 2006 – 341
- 2007 – 410
- 2008 – 414
- 2009 – 449
So, in general, the bad news is that everyone has some stroke risk and as residents of the Frederick area we’re more likely to have a higher number or more intense risk factors. The risk factors fall into one of two camps — the ones we can control and the ones we can’t.
The key, according to Mike McLane, is to focus on the first group. For example, you can’t stop aging (assuming you’re not in favor of the alternative — you know — death), change your family history, or change your race. You can, however, take steps to lower your blood pressure, control diabetes, and increase your physical activity.
To find your Stroke Risk, take the quiz on the WebMD website. Once you know your risk, you can work to decrease it by:
- Having regular medical checkups
- Quitting smoking
- Controlling high blood pressure
(high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke)
- Improving your diet
(avoid excess fat, sodium and alcohol)
- Maintaining a healthy weight and excercising
- Reducing stress
- Treating diabetes and heart disease
(the FMH Wellness Center and FMH Diabetes Program can help!)
The most important thing to remember is to act F.A.S.T. when it comes to stroke. The old saying remains true: time lost is brain lost. If you notice sudden-onset Facial droop, Arm numbness or weakness, and/or Slurred speech in yourself or someone else, it’s Time to call 911 and get to a hospital immediately.
We’ve even created business card-sized reminder cards you can keep in your purse or wallet to remind you of the symptoms.
Know the symptoms. Reduce your risk.
Remember, about 780,000 strokes will occur this year — 500,000 of them are preventable.