Arkansas has one of the highest death rates from stroke in the nation. In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, and one in six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. In recognition of World Stroke Day on October 29, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) urges Arkansans to learn the stroke warning signs, since bystanders often need to act fast in an emergency.

Arkansas is working to make strides in the treatment of acute stroke through the four primary stroke centers (UAMS, Baptist, Mercy, and Washington Regional hospitals), AR SAVES telestroke system, Mercy telestroke program, and the new Arkansas Stroke Ready Hospital (ArSRH) designation program.

“Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in Arkansas. If people know the signs and act in time, the effects of stroke can be reversed,” said Appathurai Balamurugan, MD, DrPH, State Chronic Disease Director and Medical Director for the ADH Chronic Disease Branch. “Through our work with the hospitals and Emergency Medical Services, we hope to improve quality of stroke care among Arkansans with this devastating condition.”

In 2014, 7,484 people in Arkansas had strokes. In 2015, the state had the 5th highest stroke death rate in the United States.

“As a stroke survivor, I can only punctuate the need to know and understand the signs and symptoms of a stroke and to act quickly by calling 911 to seek medical attention,” said Gale Scott, member of the Arkansas Acute Stroke Care Task Force. “I only wish I had gotten to the hospital sooner.”

Remembering the F.A.S.T. acronym is a way to recognize stroke and what to do when it is suspected:

F – Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

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 hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

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 the hospital immediately.

Other than a prior stroke, major stroke risk factors include:

• High blood pressure – It’s the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. About 77 percent of people who have a first stroke have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. An estimated 93 million Americans have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

• Transient ischemic attack – About 15 percent of strokes are preceded by a TIA (or “ministroke”).

• Atrial fibrillation (Afib) – It increases stroke risk up to five times and affects more than 2.7 million Americans.

• Smoking – Current smokers have two to four times the stroke risk of nonsmokers or those who quit more than 10 years ago. In 2017, 24.9 percent of Arkansans 18 or older reported they were cigarette smokers.

Visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov for more information on stroke prevention in Arkansas.