It’s the fans that need spring training. You gotta get them interested. Wake them up and let them know that their season is coming.” Harry Caray

May is Stroke Month and some of these things about strokes I’ve noted before, but as I think about it, we just started the baseball season in the U.S. and Canada for Major League Baseball, which means we just finished the Spring Training season. I figure it’s alright to review these concepts. (If it works in baseball, why not with strokes?) It’s Spring Training for strokes! I think this is a great quote. Harry Carey was a sportscaster for several baseball teams, but I associate him most with the Chicago Cubs. I’ve always been impressed that professional baseball players get together before the season starts to review the basics of the sport, work on team attributes and try new plays in what they call Spring Training. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s the pre-season for the sport. This quote is perfect because it’s about fans! Now much like baseball when it comes to a stroke, it never hurts to review things and it’s everyone that benefits from this info.

Most of this information has been compiled from and living as a stroke survivor for the last ten years. The statistics relate to strokes in the U.S. but it’s probably not much different for the rest of the world. The basics are true wherever we are. These statistics are that a stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Somebody in the U.S. has a stroke every 45 seconds. This means that there are 80 strokes every hour. The U.S. experiences upwards of 750,000 strokes every year. Every 4 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from a stroke. Now add the caregivers to the number of survivors and you can begin to see how people/families are impacted. These statistics relate to strokes today. We tend to think strokes happen to people of advanced age but we are finding out more and more about pediatric strokes. I would imagine that statistics will change. Our whole perspective on strokes is affected. (Then again we are finding out how plastic our brains are with pediatric strokes.) Strokes can happen at any age!

What is a stroke? Strokes are called “brain attacks”. They occur when a blood clot blocks an artery (not enough blood) or when a blood vessel bursts (too much blood). When either of these things happen, brain cells die and brain damage occurs. Anyone can suffer from a stroke. (Don’t I know?) Although many risk factors for stroke are out of our control, several can be kept in line through proper nutrition and medical care. Risk factors for stroke include males, being over 55, African American, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islanders, people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smokers, people with diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease as well as heavy users of alcohol. As we know, many of us don’t fall into any of those categories, so it is very important to be aware of strokes!
What are the signs of a stroke? There are several signs of a stroke, but the main ones for strokes are: sudden weakness (numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg), vision loss/headache or dizziness (sudden loss of vision, particularly in only one eye or unexplained dizziness, loss of balance or coordination) and loss of speech (trouble talking or understanding language.)

Remember FAST for Stroke Awareness

  • F = Face – Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.
  • A = Arm – Is one arm hanging down? Ask the person to raise both arms.
  • S = Speech – Is the speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
  • T = Time – Call 911 (or your emergency number) NOW.

How many types of strokes are there? There are two main types of brain attacks — ischemic and hemorrhagic. With ischemic strokes, a blood clot blocks or “plugs” a blood vessel in the brain. With hemorrhagic strokes, a blood vessel in the brain breaks or ruptures. (AVM strokes are hemorrhagic.) Ischemic strokes are about 85% of strokes (Thrombosis, Embolism, Large Vessel Thrombosis, and Small Vessel Disease) and hemorrhagic strokes are the remaining 15% (Intracerebral Hemorrhage and Subarachnoid Hemorrhage).

How can strokes be prevented? Although strokes can happen to anyone, certain risks factors can increase chances of a stroke. The following Stroke Prevention Guidelines will help you learn how you may be able to lower your risk for a stroke.

  • Know your Blood Pressure
  • Identify Atrial Fibrillation
  • Stop Smoking
  • Limit Alcohol Use
  • Control Diabetes
  • Manage Diet and Exercise
  • Treat Circulation Problems
  • Get Cholesterol Screening
  • Get Carotid Artery Ultrasound Screening

As I’ve said before, Matt and I have learned heaps about the brain and strokes. The source of my stroke was an AVM which was congenital. Even with a stroke, I continue to make a link between baseball (Spring Training) and strokes. I love baseball. It is a very nostalgic thing for me. That is a big part of awareness for me — I have to be aware of something in order to deal with it.