Dover stroke survivor stresses importance of managing blood pressure to prevent strokes
A stroke can happen to anyone at any point in their lifetime. May is American Stroke Month and the American Stroke Association wants you to know how to reduce your stroke risk and learn the signs everyone should know to spot a stroke F.A.S.T.
Kevin Underriner of Dover suffered from high blood pressure for most of his life. Although he knew his high blood pressure had to be managed, the term “silent killer” never compelled him to stay on top of it. He was on and off medications, but he was not taking his medication when he suffered a massive stroke.
According to the Association, high blood pressure is the leading modifiable risk factor for stroke. Even though some people are at higher risk for stroke, such as previous stroke survivors and people with unmanaged Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) or high blood pressure, strokes are largely preventable.
Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in New Hampshire and stroke is a leading disabler. Globally, about one in four adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. Even so, most adults in the U.S. don’t know the F.A.S.T warning signs of a stroke, and that stroke is highly treatable if you call 911 as soon as you recognize the symptoms.
Learn how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T.:
- Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
- Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”
- Time to Call 911 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately.
If someone is having a stroke, they must get medical attention right away. On average, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute that a stroke goes untreated. When brain cells die during a stroke, the abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities may include speech, movement, and memory. The way a stroke affects you depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged.
At the time of Underriner’s stroke, he was on a video call with a Canadian friend who works for the Ontario Ministry of Health. He believes that her familiarity with F.A.S.T. is the reason he is alive today. She witnessed the symptoms (face drooped, speech slurred, and that he was suddenly extremely tired and then passed out). She quickly called his neighbor, and he was in the ER within 20 minutes of the beginning of his stroke.
According to the Association, early treatment leads to higher survival rates and lower disability rates. Recognizing the stroke warning signs and calling 911 immediately may make the difference between a strong recovery or long-term disability, survival or even death.
“The one thing I want to communicate to people is not to take care of blood pressure for yourself, but do it for your friends and family because if something were to happen, you can lose that. The people in your life who know you one way suddenly must redefine relationships and you will lose some as well,” stated Underriner.
Approximately 800,000 people (equivalent to about half the population of Nebraska) in the United States have a stroke every year, but the large majority of strokes can be prevented. According to the Association, the best course of action is to understand controllable risk factors such as maintaining a healthy blood pressure level, eliminating smoking/vaping, increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet to reduce the chance of stroke.
For more information and resources to help prevent stroke, visit Stroke.org/StrokeMonth.