Maine CDC Press Release

May 2, 2011

Recognize Stroke symptoms, Act Quickly Says Maine CDC Health Program

May is Stroke Awareness Month

AUGUSTA — Tyra Tarbox is a 45 year old mother of four from Cumberland. One evening Tyra came home from work and suffered a significant seizure resulting in a stroke. Luckily, her husband was there and he took quick action, calling 911. She was rushed to the hospital, evaluated and quickly flown to a Boston hospital for surgery.

When she awoke six days later, Tyra had no body movement and could not move her eyes to the right. She had survived not only a stroke, but also a series of complications resulting from her brain’s lack of blood. After almost a month of inpatient rehabilitation in Portland, she returned home on her husband’s birthday and is now leading a full life.

“I’m so glad I could come back and do what I did before and be involved in my kids’ lives,” Tarbox said recently.

Tarbox’s is one of many Mainers who have had a stroke. Unfortunately not all the stories end so happily. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Maine and the United States and is also a leading cause of serious long-term disability in adults.

The Maine CDC/DHHS Cardiovascular Health Program is working with the Maine Affiliate of the American Stroke Association and other statewide partners to help more Maine people recognize the symptoms of stroke and the importance of calling 911 at the first sign of these symptoms. Each May during National Stroke Awareness Month, efforts to educate are heightened.

This year’s focus includes month long statewide radio public service announcements, which will complement efforts of local partners to improve survival and recovery from stroke. The message is that every Maine resident plays an important role in quickly recognizing stroke symptoms and emphasizes the need to call 911. The faster emergency medical services are called, the faster they will arrive to help, and to get patients to the hospital for needed treatment.

Early recognition of stroke symptoms is critical – time lost is brain lost. Stroke symptoms include sudden: • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg • Slurred speech • Blurred vision • Dizziness or loss of balance • Severe headache

“A patient’s survival and successful recovery are greatly increased if symptoms are recognized quickly and medical attention is given right away,” said Dr. Stephen Sears, Acting Director Maine CDC/DHHS. “Our goal is to raise awareness and empower everyone — patient and bystander — to see stroke as a medical emergency requiring an immediate call to 911.

“If we increase people’s ability to recognize stroke symptoms, we can positively impact patients and hopefully increase their chance of having little or no long term physical or mental disability,” Sears said.

Nearly 75 percent of all strokes occur in people aged 65 years and older; but as Tyra’s story shows, strokes can happen to anyone. Risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition and a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes also increase the possibility of stroke.

Educational materials, including community presentations, stroke symptom cards and magnets, have been distributed in local communities. Information is also available at the following websites: http://www.mainehearthealth.org and http://www.strokeassociation.org .

About the Maine CDC/DHHS Cardiovascular Health Program (MCVHP): The MCVHP, in the Department of Health and Human Services, partners with community organizations, employers, health care providers, and state-level organizations to prevent cardiovascular deaths, and improve overall cardiovascular health in Maine. MCVHP promotes a way of life that supports and includes physical activity, healthy eating, being tobacco-free, preventing and controlling high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, and increasing timely, quality care for sudden cardiac arrest, heart attacks and strokes. This is accomplished by partnering with state-level organizations, providing health education to Maine residents and offering technical assistance, resources and training to community organizations, health care providers and employers.