Stroke is a major health concern both in the U.S. and abroad, with someone experiencing a stroke about once every 40 seconds and someone dying from a stroke every four minutes (American Heart Association, 2016). Stroke is one of the leading causes of both death and long-term disability in the U.S. (AHA, 2016). Awareness is key as research shows that 80 percent of strokes are preventable; however, nearly 60 percent of American’s don’t know if they are at risk for a stroke (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2016; AHA, 2011). For the past few decades, May has been designated as American Stroke Month, with the American Stroke Association coordinating the campaign to help raise awareness around stroke and educate the public. This year’s campaign urges everyone to “Be a Stroke Hero” by knowing the warning signs and how to prevent stroke.
A key step to lowering the risk for stroke is controlling your blood pressure. Hypertension – or high blood pressure – is a telling indicator when evaluating stroke risk. More than 75% of first-time stroke patients were classified as hypertensive (AHA, 2016). Alarmingly, one third of adults in the U.S. have hypertension and more than 17 percent of adults have high blood pressure and don’t know it. (AHA, 2016).
There are a number of lifestyle factors you can control that can help manage your blood pressure and lower your risk for stroke, including nutrition and physical activity, the two focus areas of Plan4Health. Coalitions throughout the country are working to increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity to combat chronic diseases. Below are a few examples of successes from the first cohort of Plan4Health coalitions:
- Health by Design, in Indianapolis, IN has been focused on making the environment more pedestrian friendly. In early May, the city voted in favor of adopting Indianapolis’ first pedestrian plan as part of the city’s comprehensive plan. This is a major step in giving the residents of Indianapolis more opportunities to be active and lower their risk for stroke and other chronic diseases.
- In Boston, MA the Inner Core Community Health Improvement Coalition has been strategizing on how to increase access to healthy and affordable foods throughout the metropolitan region. As part of the approach, the coalition helped organize a new group, the Greater Boston Association of Corner Stores, which brings together corner store owners so that they may address common issues and leverage strengths. One opportunity is through bulk purchasing, which could allow stores to split the purchase of items, such as fresh produce, which could lower costs and allow the store owners to buy only the amounts that they needed. This in turn could lead to a wider variety of foods at more affordable prices, making these options more accessible to the community.
Need some more ideas and inspiration? Check out the new Plan4Health Success Stories and learn more about the coalitions and how they’re making their communities healthier.
This May, learn more about your risk for stroke and take action to lower it and help raise awareness about this serious disease. For ways to help spread the word, including sample social media posts, an infographic and much more, check out the American Stroke Month grab-and-go packet from Partnering4Health for additional information and resources.
The information on this page does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your doctor for issues related to your health.
American Heart Association (2016). American Stroke Month. Retrieved from: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/AmericanStrokeMonth/American-Stroke-Month_UCM_459942_SubHomePage.jsp .
American Heart Association, 2016 (2016). Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2016 update. A report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 133, 4. Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/133/4/447.full .
American Heart Association / American Stroke Association (2011). Discovery Research, Ad Council.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2016). Brain basics: Preventing stroke. Retrieved from: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/preventing_stroke.htm
Images courtesy of the American Stroke Association