May 6, 2010
Symptom Recognition the Focus Of National Stroke Awareness Month
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AUGUSTA - Each year, more than 3,000 Maine residents are hospitalized due to stroke and often the outcome is not favorable.
Stroke remains the third leading cause of death and is a leading cause of adult disability in Maine. The good news is many strokes are preventable and if action is taken quickly, the effects of stroke can be minimized.
National Stroke Awareness Month was created to raise awareness about the risk factors, symptoms and prevention of stroke. To help increase the number of stroke patients who receive immediate treatment, the Maine Center for Disease Control (Maine CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services is working with statewide partners to promote recognition of symptoms and how to take action. This work is being led by the Maine CDC Cardiovascular Health Program and the Maine Affiliate of the American Stroke Association.
Stroke can be caused by either a clot or by a blood vessel rupturing. In each case, blood does not flow to the brain, and brain tissue begins to die. Although people over the age of 65 are most at risk for stroke, it can impact people of all ages.
Christine Burke Worthen, a Maine attorney and a mother of two children, is proof of this. At age 36, Christine is a stroke survivor.
“Although I exhibited classic stroke symptoms, no one ever thought for a second that I was having a stroke. But tests confirmed the unthinkable: I had, in fact, suffered a stroke,” said Worthen, who began showing stroke symptoms right after the birth of her second child. Through aggressive treatment and therapy, Worthen was eventually able to regain mobility and speech. “For the most part, my life is back to normal. I have some residual weakness and I may slur my speech from time to time, but I feel those are small prices to pay for a second chance at life.”
Chances of survival, recovery and prevention of long-term damage are improved if symptoms are recognized quickly and medical attention is immediate. Lack of symptom recognition and patient delay remain major barriers to receiving timely stroke diagnosis and treatment, both nationally and in Maine. This is why during the month of May, Maine CDC will be increasing media presence statewide and will provide resources for communities to distribute at the local level. The purpose of this campaign is to educate Maine people about the symptoms of stroke and the importance of calling 911 at the first sign.
This year’s stroke month promotion efforts include a statewide radio presence, a northern Maine weekly newspaper campaign, and a statewide public relations push. In addition to their work at the state level, the Maine CDC is partnering with organizations such as the American Stroke Association, Emergency Medical Services – including Maine HeartSafe Communities, hospitals, and Healthy Maine Partnerships, and asking for your help to further the reach and effectiveness of these important stroke messages.
“In many cases, a person experiencing a stroke does not realize it is occurring, but bystanders can recognize the symptoms and act quickly,” said Dr. Dora Mills, Director of the MeCDC. “When someone exhibits stroke symptoms, they should call 911 immediately,” said Worthen. “Although my particular case was a rare occurrence, it underscores the need to be aware that stroke can happen to anyone, at any time.”