blood pressureThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling on Americans to take immediate action to reduce their risk for stroke through a new Health and Human Services initiative called Million Hearts. The program, which involves communities, health systems, nonprofit organization, federal agencies and private sector partners, is aimed at preventing one million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.

More than137,000 Americans die of stroke every year (equivalent to the total population of Savannah, Ga.), making it one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. nited States. Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke.

A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. The CDC says you can greatly reduce your risk for stroke through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication.

“We can do so much more to prevent strokes and the new Million Hearts initiative offers opportunities for individuals, providers, communities, and businesses to apply tools we have readily available today to reduce strokes and heart attacks,” says CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H

The Million Hearts program wants people to follow their ABCS:

• Aspirin for people at risk
• Blood pressure control
• Cholesterol management
• Smoking cessation

Less than half of Americans who should be taking an aspirin a day are taking one; less than half of Americans with high blood pressure have it under control. Only 1 in 3 Americans with high cholesterol is effectively treated, and less than a quarter of Americans who smoke get help to quit when they see their doctor.

The risk for stroke varies

Anyone can have a stroke, but some populations are at higher risk than others. Compared to whites, African-Americans are at nearly twice the risk of having a first stroke. Hispanic Americans' risk falls between the two.  Moreover, African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to die following a stroke than are whites.

High blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke, affects 68 million adults in the United States and about half of adults with high blood pressure do not have their condition under control.

Sudden symptoms of stroke

Stroke can cause death or significant disability, such as paralysis, speech difficulties, and emotional problems. Some new treatments can reduce stroke damage if patients get medical care soon after symptoms begin. When a stroke happens, it is important to recognize the symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away, and get to a hospital quickly.

The sudden onset of any of the following symptoms require immediate medical attention:

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

More than 2 million heart attacks and strokes occur every year and treatment for these conditions and other vascular diseases account for approximately $1 of every $6 healthcare dollars.

To learn more about Million Hearts and how to get involved, go to