May is Stroke Awareness Month

Medical illustration of a brain with stroke symptoms

COOKEVILLE — Strokes can affect anyone at any age. Anyone, including children, can have a stroke at any time. Having one stroke means you have a greater risk of having another (or recurrent) stroke.

Stroke kills nearly 150,000 of the 860,000 Americans who die of cardiovascular disease each year. That’s one in every 19 deaths from all causes.

A stroke happens in one of two ways: ischemic stroke, when the blood supply to the brain is blocked, and hemorrhagic stroke, when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

A stroke causes brain tissue to die, which can lead to brain damage, disability and death. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of serious long-term disability.

Acting FAST is key to stroke survival. Look for:

Facial drooping

Arm drooping

Speech. Is the person’s speech slurred or sound strange?

Time. If you see any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

But did you know that nearly 80% of strokes can be prevented?

Several factors that are beyond your control include age, sex and ethnicity. But unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough exercise can have an effect. Using tobacco products and having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity can also increase your risk for stroke.

Women and stroke

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lifetime risk of stroke for women between the ages of 55 and 75 in the U.S. is 1 in 5. Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer does, making stroke the third leading cause of death for women.

High blood pressure is a main risk factor for stroke. More than 2 in 5 women have blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/88 mm Hg or are taking medicine to control their blood pressure. Only about 1 in 4 of those women have their blood pressure controlled to below 130/80 mm Hg.

Stroke increases with age as well.

Having high blood pressure during pregnancy, using certain types of birth control medicine, especially if that person smokes, and having higher rates of depression are unique factors women have.

African American women are at a higher risk of stroke, along with Hispanic women.

Men and stroke

Stroke is the leading cause of death in men, killing almost the same number of men each year as prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined. It is also the leading cause of long-term disability and men under the age of 44 are hospitalized for ischemic stroke at a higher rate than women in the same age group.

But there is good news: about 4 in 5 strokes are preventable.

High blood pressure is also a major risk factor for stroke for men. Nearly half of men have high blood pressure or are taking medicine for their blood pressure.

Other risk factors include:


Obesity or overweight


Too much alcohol

Not enough physical activity.

More than 2 in 5 African American men have a blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg or who are taking medicine to control their blood pressure do not have it under control.

About 1 in 9 African American men have been diagnosed with diabetes, and many more have the disease but do not know it.

About 1 in 265 black or African American babies are born with sickle cell disease.

About 1 in 5 African American men smoke.

About 7 in 10 African American men are overweight or obese.

Hispanic men are also at high risk.

Most strokes can be prevented by keeping medical conditions under control and making healthy lifestyle changes. Taking aspirin may help reduce your risk of stroke, but it’s a good idea to check with your doctor because it can make some types of stroke worse.

Control your blood pressure with healthy lifestyle changes and take your medicine as directed.

Manage your cholesterol with healthy lifestyle changes and taking medicine as directed.

Don’t start smoking. If you do smoke, there are tips to help you quit on the CDC’s website.

Eat healthy. Choose healthy foods with less salt to lower your blood pressure and those rich in fiber and whole grains to manage your cholesterol.

Get regular physical activity which helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight and keeps your heart and blood vessels healthier.

Cookeville Regional Medical Center is a primary stroke center. 

“Being a primary stroke center is essential to someone who may be experiencing a stroke,” said Paul Korth, Cookeville Regional CEO. “If someone is having a stroke and comes into Cookeville Regional’s emergency department, there are protocols put in place to have them diagnosed quickly and treatment rendered before permanent damage is done.”

Dr. Mark Tedford, neurohospitalist and stroke center director, will be talking about strokes during the next Health Talks, set for noon May 24. It will be a Zoom meeting, so you can join for lunch from the comfort of home or your office. Book your spot at

If you think someone is experiencing a stroke, call 911 immediately.

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