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Stroke Health Center

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5 Stroke Warning Signs: How States Stack Up


WebMD Health News

May 6, 2004 -- Fast treatment for stroke can save lives, but the CDC says awareness of the five major warnings signs for a stroke is low.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death but knowing when to get someone to the hospital for treatment not only helps save lives but also helps prevent long-term disability.

In 2001, researchers performed a telephone survey of more than 61,000 people from 17 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands to test their stroke awareness. In addition, participants were also asked what they would do first if they thought someone was having a stroke.

The researchers evaluated the number of people who correctly recognized all stroke warning signs and who appropriately chose to call 911 as their first plan of attack.

Here's how the states stacked up:

Alabama

21.7%

Minnesota

21.1%

Wisconsin

20.4%

Virginia

19.3%

Colorado

17.6%

Connecticut

17.2%

Tennessee

16.9%

Wyoming

16.9%

Ohio

16.4%

Utah

15.8%

West Virginia

15.7%

Maine

15.4%

Montana

15.0%

South Carolina

13.6%

Arkansas

13.1%

Louisiana

11.9%

Hawaii

11.8%

U.S. Virgin Islands

5.9%

The five major warning signs of a stroke are:

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

Overall, recognizing the five major stroke warning signs and being aware that sudden chest pain was not a stroke sign (but a sign of a heart attack) was low at 19.6%. In addition, fewer than 18% of people were both aware of all the correct stroke signs and reported they would first call 911 if they thought someone was having a stroke or a heart attack.

The report appears in the current issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In an editorial accompanying the study, researchers note that calling 911 immediately and getting treatment as soon as possible can reduce disability and death from stroke. That's why one of the 2010 national health objectives is to increase the number of people who are aware of the early warning symptoms and signs of stroke.

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