As we move past May, American Stroke Month is coming to a close. Leigh Kite, a Nurse Clinician for the University of Missouri’s stroke program, says the impact of strokes could be lessened with just a little more awareness.

Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death nationwide, and a major cause of disability. Kite says one person has a stroke every 45 seconds in the U-S; and Missouri has one of the highest stroke rates among the 50 states.

“High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke. Smoking, being overweight, obesity; all those things that we’re always told to correct and not do, we really need to be focused on fixing,” Kite said.

She says a big problem is people that have strokes often don’t seek treatment in the first three hours, a key time frame. After that, there is a much higher risk for long-term effects and disability. 36,000 brain cells are killed every second your brain doesn’t have oxygen.

“The worst thing you can do is you can go to an ER and they’ll send you home. I’d much rather you come to our ER and get evaluated, or any hospital ER for that matter and get evaluated, and be told it’s nothing, than to sit at home and let your brain start dying off knowing you had a chance at treatment,” Kite said.           

Signs of a stroke include numbness in your face, arm or leg on one side of your body, dimness or loss of vision, loss of speech, and unexplained dizziness or severe headaches         

Kite says the average stroke patient is in their 50’s, but it’s by no means reserved to that age group.

“I’ve had a patient as young as 19, some in their 30’s, so it’s not just an old person’s disease. This is something that’s affecting everyone, it can even happen to children. So it’s not just an old person’s disease like people tend to believe,” Kite said.

Kite says it’s key for people to consult their doctors about how to treat any of those risk factors,. and to continue taking your medicine even after you start feeling better.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [:62 MP3]