Every 40 seconds in the United States, someone has a stroke. One of the
common myths about stroke is that it only affects older people. While
it’s true that stroke risk increases with age, anyone can have a
stroke at any time.
“It’s a huge misconception that only older people are affected
by stroke,” said
Hamed Farid, MD
, medical director, neurointerventional radiology at
St. Jude Medical Center
in Fullerton, certified by The Joint Commission as an Advanced Comprehensive
Stroke Center. “In fact, more younger people are having strokes.
We attribute that to more people being overweight, having high blood pressure,
and having uncontrolled diabetes. All of these are risk factors for serious
health problems, including stroke.”
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, an ideal time to shed light on
stroke risk factors and prevention. Stroke is the fifth leading cause
of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability.
People with diabetes are up to four times more likely to have a stroke
than people who don’t have the disease, Dr. Farid said.
“High blood pressure is also a major risk factor for stroke because
it causes the heart to pump harder to move blood through the body,”
Dr. Farid said. “That can weaken blood vessels and damage the brain
and other major organs.”
About 85 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes caused when a part of
the brain is deprived of blood flow, usually from a blood clot or blockage
of the artery. The other 15 percent are hemorrhagic strokes, caused when
a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
Everyone should become familiar with the warning signs of stroke, Dr. Farid said.
An easy way to remember stroke symptoms is to memorize
F – Face. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
A – Arms. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one
arm drift downward?
S – Speech. Is speech slurred, is the person unable to speak, or hard to understand?
T - Time: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away,
call 911 and get him or her to the hospital immediately. The chances of
death and serious disability go down the earlier treatment is received.
“Prompt treatment is crucial,” Dr. Farid said. “For every
minute a stroke goes untreated, a person loses 1.9 million neurons. The
brain that is being deprived of oxygen ages 3.6 years each hour without
There are additional symptoms to be aware of, Dr. Farid said.
“Stroke symptoms can also include a severe headache – stroke
survivors often describe this as the worst headache of their life –
dizziness, loss of balance and difficulty seeing, walking, talking or
understanding language,” Dr. Farid said. The one thing that all
of these symptoms have in common is they strike suddenly, without warning.”
If you or someone you love has a stroke, it’s important to get to
a hospital with the expertise and capability to treat all kinds of stroke,
from mild stroke to the most severe and challenging types of stroke and
cerebrovascular disease, Dr. Farid said.
St. Jude has been certified by The Joint Commission as an Advanced Comprehensive
Stroke Center, a level of recognition reserved for an elite group of hospitals
capable of treating the most complex stroke cases. St. Jude is one of
only 10 hospitals in California to have earned this advanced designation.
“With the advances in technology and expertise available, we are
increasingly able to go beyond simply treating a stroke – and actually
prevent or reverse its effects,” Dr. Farid said.
For more information about St. Jude Medical Center, please click
here. For more information about Dr. Farid, please click
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.