UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – May is National Stroke Awareness Month which aims to raise awareness about the prevention and treatment of strokes. According to the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability, with an estimated cost of $34 billion annually.

Christina Verran is an ER/ICU nursing supervisor at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital, and she shares what a stroke is and what causes it.

“A stroke is a brain attack just like you can have a heart attack, you can have a brain attack,” said Verran. “There are different types of strokes that you can have, you can have an ischemic stroke where there is a blockage in a blood vessel that blocks the blood flow going into the brain. Or you could have a hemorrhagic stroke where they’re the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, which causes bleeding in the brain. ischemic strokes account for approximately 87 percent of all strokes. And when a stroke happens, parts of the brain can die that are parts of the brain that are damaged can die within minutes. And depending on what part of the brain is damaged, it can affect an individual’s ability to speak, see, and move.”

Early action is important when someone is experiencing a stroke. It can be remembered by the acronym BE FAST:

Balance – Sudden loss of coordination or balance
Eyes – Sudden change in vision
Face – Sudden weakness on one side of the face or facial droop
Arm – Sudden arm or leg weakness or numbness
Speech – Sudden slurred speech, trouble speaking, trouble understanding speech
Terrible Headache or Time – Sudden onset of a terrible headache and if you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

According to the CDC, 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

“Risk factors for having a stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, lack of physical activity and obesity,” said Verran. “In a stroke can occur at any age. One out of five people who have a stroke are under the age of 55. And your chance increases as increases with age. And an interesting fact that a lot of people don’t realize too is that more women have strokes than men and more women die from stroke than from breast cancer every year.”

Aspirus Health provides emergency stroke care system-wide at all Aspirus hospitals. To learn more, you can visit aspirus.org/stroke-care.