It affects 80 percent of all American families – and is 80 percent preventable – yet too few people recognize the symptoms of strokes when they occur.

While a stroke can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender or race – women are uniquely impacted. Consider these facts:

Twice as many women die from stroke than from breast cancer every year. More women than men die from stroke.

One half of all African American women will die from stroke or heart disease. Women outnumber men as caregivers to stroke survivors.

4 out of 5 American families will be touched by stroke.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. The National Stroke Association and UNM Health Sciences Center Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology are urging people to take charge of their health by knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, asking their doctors about stroke prevention and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when blood and oxygen flow to the brain is interrupted by a blood clot or a broken blood vessel. This kills brain cells in the immediate area, often causing physical and emotional disabilities including speech problems, memory loss and paralysis. A good first step is to have your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke. Nearly 60 million Americans - 29 million women - have high blood pressure, and almost a third do not even know it. In addition to high blood pressure, there are several things that can contribute or increase a person’s risk for stroke including cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and family history.

Women have additional risk factors to consider such as pregnancy and using hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause, all of which can increase stroke risk.

The good news is that stroke is one of the most preventable of all life-threatening health problems, provided you pay proper attention to lifestyle and medical risk factors. Treatment exists to help minimize the effects of a stroke, however it must be given within 3 hours of the first symptom. So it is important for people to be able to recognize the symptoms of stroke and seek emergency medical attention. Every year, more than 750,000 Americans experience a stroke, but with increased awareness 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented. While the statistics are sobering, they are not irreversible.


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322