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Stroke: Preventable, Treatable, Beatable 

Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. 


Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and the leading cause of adult long-term disability. It can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age. But, annually, more women suffer from strokes then men, and twice as many African Americans suffer from strokes than Caucasians. 

According to the CDC, stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year- that’s one out of every 20 deaths. And here are more important statistics: 

  • Stroke costs the United States healthcare system an estimated $34 billion each year. This total includes the cost of healthcare services, medicines to treat stroke and missed days of work.   
  • Every four minutes, someone dies of a stroke.   
  • In the past 10 years, the death rate from stroke has fallen about 35 percent; however, Hispanics have seen an increase in death rates since 2013. 
  • About 795,000 people have a stroke every year.  
  • Stroke risk increases with age, but strokes can and do occur at any age 
  • About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.  
  • Stroke is a leading cause of disability.  
  • Patients who arrived at the emergency room within three hours of their initial stroke symptoms often have less disability three months after the stroke than those who received delayed care.  


While some of these statistics may seem grim, the good news is that stroke is largely preventable, treatable and beatable. 

A stroke occurs when blood flow and oxygen is blocked from getting to the brain – usually caused by a blood clot or broken blood vessel. When this happens, brain cells begin to die, and brain damage occurs. This can affect speech and understanding, movement and strength of the legs and arms, swallowing, thinking skills and bowel and bladder function. 

How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. For example, one person who has a stroke may only experience minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg, while another person may become paralyzed on one side or lose his or her ability to speak and may have difficulty swallowing. 

While some risk factors for stroke such as age, race, gender and family history cannot be controlled, 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented through controllable risk factors. 

Some ways to lower your stroke risk include: 

  • Manage your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major stroke risk if left untreated. 
  • Eat healthy. Incorporate low-fat, nutritious foods into your diet, including five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 
  • Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week of physical activity. 
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol use has been linked to strokes in many studies. 
  • Stop smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke by damaging blood vessel walls, speeding up artery clogging and raising blood pressure. 
  • Lower your cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that can clog arteries.  
  • Lose excessive weight. Excess weight strains the circulatory system. 


In addition, Shaw recommends meeting regularly with your family doctor to discuss and manage any ongoing issues. Know and share your family history and be sure to discuss your risks and any symptoms you may be experiencing.  

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be having a stroke, acting fast is critical to saving a life. Use the FAST test to remember warning signs of a stroke and what to do: 


  • Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? 
  • Arms – Ask the person to lift both arms. Does one drift downward? 
  • Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech   

                           slurred or strange? 

  • Time – If you observe any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.  


If someone is having a stroke, time is critical. If you can get help quickly, there is a medication that may reduce long-term disability for the person having the stroke if it is administered within three hours of the first symptom. So, don’t hesitate to call for help. 

Your quick thinking and reaction could make a significant impact on that person’s life. QCBN 

By Brian Shaw, OTR 

Brian Shaw, OTR, is director of Therapy Operations at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. 


Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital is a 44-bed, free-standing rehabilitation hospital that provides intensive physical rehabilitation services to patients recovering from strokes, brain, spinal cord, and orthopedic injuries, and other impairments as a result of injury or illness. For more information, visit 


3700 N. Windsong • Prescott Valley, AZ 86314 • (P) 928-759-8800• (F) 928-775-7781 • 




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