Senior Life

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Stroke -- the leading cause of disability in Illinois and the U.S.

World Stroke Day, Oct. 29: Learn how to reduce your risk

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[October 29, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD -- Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in Illinois and the leading cause of disability. This year's theme for World Stroke Day, Oct. 29, is "Because I Care," which emphasizes that stroke is preventable and the benefits of prevention extend to all those who care.

"Although most people who have a stroke are older, anyone, including children, can have a stroke," said Illinois Department of Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck. "While we cannot control some risk factors for preventing a stroke, like age, sex, ethnicity and family history, we can make healthy changes that can help lower the risk. Changes may include getting more exercise and eating a healthier diet."

A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or a blood vessel bursts in the brain.

As the fourth-leading cause of death in Illinois, stroke is responsible for 16 percent of all cardiovascular disease deaths in the state. In 2009, there were slightly more than 5,000 deaths in adults age 35 and older in Illinois due to stroke. More men die of stroke than women, but more women have a stroke and more women suffer from a disability after a stroke than men. Black non-Hispanics have the highest stroke mortality rate, and stroke occurs more in black and non-Hispanic races and ethnicities. The overall prevalence of stroke in Illinois adults is 3.1 percent, or slightly more than 300,000 adults.

The following actions can help reduce the likelihood of having a stroke:

  • Know your personal risk factors for stroke -- including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high blood cholesterol and having a previous stroke -- and control or manage those conditions by working with health care providers.

  • Engage in physical activity regularly.

  • Maintain a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables.

  • Limit alcohol consumption.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now: 1-866 Quit Yes (1-866-784-8937).

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Know the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Use the F.A.S.T. test to check for signs of stroke:

  • Face -- Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?

  • Arms -- Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

  • Speech -- Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

  • Time -- If you notice any of these signs, call 911.

Other symptoms to look for include sudden leg numbness or weakness, sudden confusion or trouble understanding, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking or dizziness, and sudden severe headache with no known cause. If you observe someone with these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

For more information about stroke, visit

[Text from Illinois Department of Public Health file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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