May is National Stroke Awareness Month

May 8, 2015


Benjamin Thomas, M.D. Rick Guarino, M.D.

As neurologists in Wilson County, Dr. Rick Guarino and I are extremely interested in making our community more aware about strokes. The reason is simple: North Carolina is what’s known as the “stroke belt” in the United States. We have a higher risk of stroke. Why is that? Well, the answer is simple.

As a society, we don’t do a great job of controlling what controllable in our lives. We eat too much. We don’t exercise enough. We become obese. We smoke. Maybe we don’t do a great job of controlling our high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. All of those factors contribute to your chances of suffering a stroke.

Now, there are some things we can’t control – our gender, age and family history. But we can be aware of those factors. We can remember that we’re getting older and adjust our eating and exercise habits. You’re a woman. And as a woman, you have a higher risk of having a stroke. So do African Americans, Native Americans and Alaskan natives. And finally, we can stay aware – as we talk to our doctors and other health care providers – that a parent or sibling suffered a stroke. Because that makes our risk higher as well.

Dr. Guarino and I know stroke is a serious issue in Wilson. We see about 400 cases of stroke a year. That’s more than one a day.

Nationally the numbers are staggering as well.

• Stroke is the third leading cause of death in North Carolina. In the U.S., stroke kills more than 162,000 people annually.
• On average, someone suffers from a stroke every 40 seconds.
• Every 4 minutes, someone dies of a stroke.
• 22% of men & 25% of women have their first stroke and die within a year.

Stroke is an emergency, and it should be treated as such. So act FAST. If you think someone is suffering a stroke, check for these signs: facial droop or an uneven smile, arm numbness or weakness and slurred speech, difficulty speaking or understanding. If you see any of these symptoms, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately.

If you or someone you love is suffering a stroke, you need appropriate care immediately. It can mean the difference in disability and even death.

Help us celebrate National Stroke Month by taking three small steps to control your risk. One, make a small change in your diet. Two, walk for 30 minutes every day and three, think about your family history and make sure your physician knows your risk as well.

You can do it. I know you can.

Drs. Ben Thomas and Rick Guarino are neurologists practicing at Wilson Neurology, 1700 Tarboro Street, Suite 103. You may reach the practice by calling 252-399-5306.