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Health officials urge Minnesotans to learn the signs and symptoms of stroke


Justin wanted to make sure you saw this great news release from the Minnesota Department of Health on stroke in Minnesota:

In recent years, Minnesota has made significant progress in reducing hospitalizations for heart attacks but rates of stroke hospitalizations have remained stubbornly steady.

Since 2005, the number of stroke hospitalizations has remained between 11,000 and 12,000 a year, even though the total number of hospitalizations for heart attack has declined almost 15 percent from a high of 9,740 in 2005, according to MDH research.

During 2011, more than 85,000 Minnesotans, or 2.1 percent of adults, reported having had a stroke in their lifetime. Hospitalization data from 2011 show 11,570 hospitalizations for stroke in 2011. The total inpatient charges for these hospitalizations was $414.1 million, an increase of $47 million in just two years.

A stroke is a "brain attack" that occurs when blood flow to tissues in the brain is interrupted. Strokes can lead to permanent disability and death. To help raise awareness about stroke in Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed May as Stroke Awareness Month in Minnesota. May is also National Stroke Awareness Month.

"The reality of stroke is that if you're having one, you need to get to the hospital fast," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota commissioner of health, "but our goal is for Minnesota to do a better job of managing blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and other risk factors for stroke, so people never have to experience this life threatening emergency."

In 2010, stroke was the third-leading cause of death in Minnesota, with 2,163 deaths.

One key strategy MDH advocates to help prevent stroke hospitalizations is for doctors and providers to deliver a heightened level of care to patients who have experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a "mini-stroke," which is a temporary interruption of blood flow in the brain that does not cause permanent damage. After a "mini-stroke," patients are at a higher risk for full blown stroke and should work with their doctor to explore treatment options such as aggressively controlling their blood pressure, taking blood-thinning medications, stopping smoking, and avoiding heavy drinking.

Ehlinger urged Minnesotans to learn the warning signs and symptoms of stroke. "One of the really concerning things about stroke is that only about half of Minnesotans know the five major signs of a stroke," Ehlinger said "When it comes to strokes we say that time lost is brain lost. So make sure you know the signs, err on the side of safety and call 9-1-1."

An easy way to remember how to recognize a stroke is FAST:

• F - Face drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? To check, ask the person to smile, and see if one side doesn't move normally.
• A - Arm weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
• S - Speech difficulty. Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they are they hard to understand?
• T - Time to call 9-1-1. If the person shows ANY of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to a hospital immediately.

The signs and symptoms of stroke are the following:

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side.
• Sudden confusion or trouble understanding.
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance.
• Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

More information about stroke and its risk factors is available from MDH's Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention Unit at

For more information on the signs and symptoms of stroke and access to resources for stroke survivors, please visit the Minnesota Stroke Association's website at

For more information about cardiovascular diseases and stroke, visit the Minnesota Affiliate of the American Heart Association's website at

Health professionals looking for more information on how to conduct stroke community education events can find resources at the Minnesota Stroke Partnership's website at
NOTE: A 30-second public service announcement about the signs and symptoms of a stroke is available at

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