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May is Stroke Awareness Month

May is Stroke Awareness Month and High Blood Pressure Education Month. These observances offer another opportunity to remind Iowans to control their blood pressure and reduce their risk for stroke. Each year, more than 1,500 Iowans die from stroke and studies have shown high blood pressure levels can contribute to the risk for stroke. “About 28 percent of Iowans have high blood pressure,” said Terry Meek, the IDPH project coordinator for the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention program. “If that percentage can be reduced, the number of stroke deaths would likely be reduced as well.”

While lowering an individual’s blood pressure can significantly improve their health, the reality is that many Iowans don’t even know if they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure (typically a reading higher than 120/80) usually has no warning signs or symptoms, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. If the reading is high, your health care provider may prescribe medication to treat it, but lifestyle changes can be just as important as taking medicines. You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and being physically active.

Stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Symptoms of stroke include:

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

If you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke in yourself or others, call 9-1-1 immediately. The chance that you will survive and recover from a stroke is higher if you get emergency treatment right away.For more information on high blood pressure, visit www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/docs/ConsumerEd_HBP.pdf. For information about stroke prevention, visit www.cdc.gov/stroke/about.htm.

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