World Stroke DayThe Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) commemorated World Stroke Day on Oct. 29 by encouraging Hoosiers to make sure friends, family and patients know the signs of a stroke and how to prevent one.

A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain, causing brain tissue to become damaged or die. In 2016, more than 3,000 Hoosiers died from a stroke, making it the fifth-leading cause of death in Indiana.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, many strokes are preventable, said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG.

“High blood pressure is the single most important and treatable risk factor for stroke, so it’s important that it be treated adequately,” Dr. Box said. “Some of the best ways to prevent high blood pressure are exercise, maintaining an appropriate weight and diet. As we see strokes striking patients at younger ages, I urge Hoosiers to remember that the good habits you adopt today can help you remain healthy far into the future.”

Because a stroke can damage parts of the brain quickly, health officials recommend using the FAST system to recognize the symptoms:

  • F – Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
  • A – Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S – Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
  • T – Time. If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Other sudden symptoms of a stroke include confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech; difficulty seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination; and a severe headache. Call 911 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.