Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and is a leading cause of disability. Rates of stroke are higher in Kentucky and other states in the stroke belt due to higher rates of smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. May is National Stroke Awareness Month and is an ideal time to take steps to reduce your risk.

“High blood pressure can lead to stroke by damaging the blood vessels leading to or within the brain, causing them to narrow or rupture,” said Kerri Remmel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of Louisville Hospital Stroke Center. “We can’t feel high blood pressure until it’s too late, so we need to check our blood pressure and get it under control. Stroke is mostly preventable by aggressively reducing risk factors.”

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be controlled with medication. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, reduce your risk of stroke by checking and recording your blood pressure and consistently taking your medication. Controllable risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Cardiovascular disease, including an abnormal heart rhythm
  • Estrogen medication
  • Heavy or binge drinking
  • Use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamines

If you are worried about your risk, please discuss your concerns with your doctor or contact UofL Physicians – Neurology.

If you see anyone experiencing symptoms of a stroke, get them to a hospital quickly. If possible, seek treatment at a Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, such as University of Louisville Hospital. UofL Hospital was the first certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in Kentucky. The physicians, nurses and other providers at UofL Hospital are prepared to quickly assess and treat patients suffering from all types of strokes using the most advanced treatments available, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you are unsure whether someone is having a stroke, the medical experts of the University of Louisville Stroke Program recommend the use of the acronym BE FAST to remember the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

BE FAST to spot signs of stroke

Balance – Sudden loss of balance or coordination

Eyes – Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision

Face – Sudden face drooping

Arm – Sudden weakness or numbness of the arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

Speech – Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech

Time – to call 911 for help. Time saved is brain saved!

BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Health Care.

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UofL Health

UofL Health is a fully integrated regional academic health system with eight hospitals, four medical centers, Brown Cancer Center, Eye Institute, nearly 200 physician practice locations, and more than 1,000 providers in Louisville and the surrounding counties, including southern Indiana. Additional access to UofL Health is provided through a partnership with Carroll County Memorial Hospital. With more than 13,000 team members – physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and other highly-skilled health care professionals, UofL Health is focused on one mission: to transform the health of communities we serve through compassionate, innovative, patient-centered care.

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