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May is national stroke awareness month kicking off a variety of activities meant to increase awareness about identifying a stroke, recognizing risk factors, and supporting research/treatment. Sadly, recently there were two high profile deaths from stroke, actor Luke Perry (52) and director John Singleton (51). The death of these two people at young ages reinforces that stroke can strike men or women at any age. While most people associate stroke with the elderly, in 2009, 34% of people hospitalized for stroke were less than 65 years old.

My wife, J, was a healthy 49 when she had her hemorrhagic stroke, and showed no warning signs or risk factors. Over the past two years, I’ve met and talked to many people in the 40 to 50 age range who are stroke survivors. I don’t think we, as a nation, are truly aware of the prevalence of stroke.

According to the CDC website, stroke is the 5th leading cause of death on the U.S. accounting for about 140,000 deaths per year but there are more than 795,000 strokes per year. Maybe more impactfully, stroke is either the 1st or 2nd leading cause of long term disability depending on the age group.


Stroke Statistics

Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2017 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135:e229-e445.

  • Stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths
  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke
  • Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes
  • About 185,000 strokes—nearly 1 of 4—are in people who have had a previous stroke
  • About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked
  • Stroke costs the United States an estimated $34 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over

Take some time during stroke awareness month to determine the risk for stroke in your family and reflect on how prepared you are if the unforeseen happens.

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