If you think someone may be having a stroke, you need to think FAST.
It’s World Stroke Day, and The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association want you to be aware of what to do in case someone is having a stroke. They have released a catchy, quirky video to help you remember the acronym FAST:
- FACE, ask the person to smile, is it drooping?
- ARMS, have the person raise both arms, does one drift down?
- SPEECH, is the person’s speech slurred?
- TIME, if you suspect a stroke, call 911 quickly!
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in a death every four minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Virginia, strokes resulted in the hospitalization of 22,883 people in 2013, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
There’s a partnership of the state health department and Virginia’s faith community called Virginia’s Congregations for Million Hearts that is seeking to do battle against heart disease and stroke through educational campaigns and encouraging healthier lifestyle choices. The program has exceeded expectations. As of October, it has about 133 participating church and temples across the commonwealth.
The original nationwide goal was 100 congregations, and there were only 56 in the entire nation when Virginia joined last November. The state now serves as the model for the national effort, according to Dr. Adrienne McFadden, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.
Its robust Facebook site offers daily tips from the health department, and regular updates from participating church groups on their activities in the campaign. For example, you can check out the members of the Zumba class at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, or learn about the health and wellness fair at First Union Baptist Church in Mechanicsville.
Virginia’s Congregations is part of the national Million Hearts campaign, which seeks to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.
We think of stroke as mostly affecting elderly men, but it actually results in the death of more women than men each year worldwide, according to the World Stroke Organization. Strokes kill about 75,000 American women each year. About 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year.
The numbers are especially daunting for African-Americans, who are twice as likely as whites to suffer a stroke, and are twice as likely to die from a stroke. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. Other factors, which also are all-too-prevalent in African-Americans, include obesity, lack of regular exercise, sickle cell anemia, poor diet and smoking of tobacco products.
The Congregations program involves matching health organizations such as the Balm in Gilead and the American Heart Association that provide education and health and fitness programs with participating congregations, according to McFadden. That has resulted in an array of efforts, including staging health fairs and screenings, exercise classes and education opportunities on healthy eating and lifestyles.
The churches and temples have proven to be enthusiastic partners. “They’re really taking the baton and running with it,” she says.
It’s a collaborative effort that provides access to services and programs that otherwise would have been unavailable, especially to smaller congregations.
“Because we have so many partners doing so many different things, churches have free choice in choosing,” McFadden says.
Million Hearts is a national effort of the CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
You can reduce your risk of stroke through lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet that includes more fruits and vegetables, engaging in exercise regularly and not smoking. Check your blood pressure regularly, and keep it under control.
Learn about symptoms from the National Stroke Association.
STROKES BY THE NUMBERS IN VIRGINIA
22,883: Total number of hospitalizations for stroke in Virginia in 2013
72.2: Rate of strokes per 10,000 blacks
48.6: Rate of strokes per 10,000 whites
37.3 Rate of strokes per 10,000 black men
34.9 Rate of strokes per 10,000 black women
26.1: Rate of strokes per 10,000 white men
22.5 Rate of strokes per 10,000 white women
18.5: Rate of strokes per 10,000 Hispanics
9.9 Rate of strokes per 10,000 Hispanic men
8.7 Rate of strokes per 10,000 Hispanic women
African-American women are 1.55 times more likely to be hospitalized with stroke than white women.
African-American men are 1.43 time more likely to be hospitalized with stroke than white men.
Note: Statistics from 2013
Source: Virginia Department of Health
Seeing Red About Meat
As any hitchhiker through life knows (thanks to Douglas Adams), the first rule of the road is DON’T PANIC!, a phrase that also should be imprinted on the cover sheets of many health warnings.
For example, The World Health Organization on Oct. 26 reported that processed meats have been grouped with tobacco smoking and asbestos as carcinogenic to people, and that red meats in general are considered probably carcinogenic. Processed meats (think sandwich meats, bacon, hotdogs, etc.) are linked to colorectal cancer. Red meats (pork, beef, sheep, goat) are linked to colorectal cancer and associated with pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer looked at more than 800 studies. The conclusion was that the risk of colorectal cancer increases by 18 percent with each 1.76 ounces of processed meat eaten daily (that’s about one sausage patty or one hot dog a day).
Well, OK. There’s good science behind this, of course, but most folks need to take it with a grain of nitrite.
The first point to consider is what it means to group processed meats with asbestos and smoking. That’s not company that you want to keep, right? It doesn’t mean, though, that eating hot dogs is as dangerous as a smoking habit or exposure to asbestos: As the World Health Organization notes, the grouping is about the evidence that a substance causes cancer, but this does not mean that they are all equally dangerous.
The next step is to do the math. WHO reports that the Global Burden of Disease project estimates that consumption of red meat and processed meat accounts for 34,000 cancer deaths across the globe each year. WHO says 8.2 million people die each year from various forms of cancer. If I’m doing the math correctly, that means that the 34,000 estimated cancer deaths from red meat and processed meat consumption make up 0.42 percent of all cancer deaths in a year.
Also consider the statement that daily consumption of 1.67 ounces of processed meat (and how many of us can stomach seven hot dogs in a week) increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Significant, yes, but again, a bit of perspective is called for.
Let’s do some more math.
First, there were 134,784 Americans diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s far too many, but it represents just .04 percent of the overall population of 314,010,000 Americans that year. If the risk factor was 18 percent greater, that would result in 24,262 more cases, which again is a lot, but the increased total would represent .05 percent of the overall population.
This is good, thorough science, and should get you thinking about your diet and potential changes for the better. But, as with everything, perspective is needed.
There’s no need to panic.