Deadly denial: Baby boomers should know about stroke

Deadly denial: Baby boomers should know about stroke


SPRINGFIELD—Baby boomers know as much about stroke as the average American, but they’re in denial about the looming threat of America’s No. 3 killer in their own lives, a recent survey shows.

In a February 2003 survey of 1,000 adults, the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, found that most baby boomers know the stroke warning signs and what to do if someone has a stroke, but they don’t realize that they are moving closer to the age—55—when their own stroke risk begins to double.

“We are happy to see that baby boomers, as a group, understand what a stroke is and how to act when faced with one. It concerns us, however, that this group underestimates this risk,” says Dr. Joni Clark, president of the American Stroke Association’s Springfield Board of Directors and assistant professor of Neurology at Southern Illinois School of Medicine. “Baby boomers represent a large part of our population, and as more of them turn 55 each year, it puts a great burden on all of us to be able to recognize a stroke and react properly.”

Respondents, who reflected the diversity of the general population, were asked, “When does your risk for stroke increase?” They consistently gave an age greater than their own. Even those 55 or older believed that their risk for stroke increased in the distant future. Worse, most aren’t concerned about stroke as a health threat in general.

So why doesn’t stroke worry baby boomers, who as each birthday passes, are at greater risk of stroke?

Response: One-third of respondents said, “I can’t prevent a stroke, so why worry?”

Truth: Various factors affect your risk for stroke. These include uncontrollable factors, such as family history, age and gender. But some factors are controllable, such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking. By quitting smoking, working with your doctor to treat high cholesterol and high blood pressure, eating healthfully and exercising, you can reduce your stroke risk.

Response: More than half said, “I’m not at risk for stroke.”

Truth: Stroke can occur at any time, at any age, to anyone. It’s important to recognize the signs of stroke and seek treatment. Never dismiss the signs of stroke because you believe that you or someone having symptoms is “too young.” In addition, while some people are at a lower risk for stroke than others, those who have the highest risk have a combination of factors including a family history of stroke, existing cardiovascular conditions, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, a history of heart attack or stroke, tobacco use and age greater than 55. In addition, if you are overweight or obese, follow sound dietary advice and engage in physical activity to control your weight. Take action to reduce your risk of stroke.

The American Stroke Association encourages you to take the following steps toward a healthier future:

Teach your family and friends to recognize the warning signs of stroke. The more people you know who can recognize stroke, the better off you are if you have one. If you recognize the signs of stroke in yourself or another person, call 9-1-1 immediately to get to a hospital quickly. The signs of a stroke are:

• 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.

Visit to learn more about stroke and take stroke pledge. Fill out a confidential risk assessment and learn more about risk factors and solutions, then use that information to work with your physician to reduce your stroke risk.

Watch your television for new stroke public service announcements. Stars Patrick Dempsey, Michael Clark-Duncan, Penny Marshall, Don Rickles and Sharon Stone portray a stroke to teach Americans about the warning signs of stroke in a new campaign from the American Stroke Association and the Ad Council.

The American Stroke Association raises awareness to reduce disability and death from stroke. In fiscal year 2001-02, the association spent almost $131 million on stroke-related research and programs. For additional stroke resources, visit or call 1-888-4-STROKE.

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