May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and it is very significant to me, because I am a stroke survivor. As a stroke survivor, I consider myself to be a miracle. One of my goals in life is to educate Americans (particularly Black men), that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with knowledge and education. Strokes have the potential to be a silent killer, and nearly 85 percent of all strokes that occur show no warning signs.
Although there are no major warning signs, there are risk factors, diseases and health issues that make an individual more susceptible to having a stroke. High blood pressure (hypertension) is the number one cause in the country for a stroke, and it can be regulated with medicine, a proper diet, monitoring your blood pressure and a healthy lifestyle.
As I state in my book, “The Inspiring Journey of a Stroke Survivor,” “Health care in one of the wealthiest countries on the face of this earth is not a primary focus or concern. In this society, many people are not interested in improving their health. They prefer to take a chance and hope that health issues will resolve themselves. I was not taking care of myself and not taking the necessary steps to correct my health problems. This is a major crisis confronting this country today.”
It is obvious with the recent news of the passing of actor Luke Perry, 52, and director John Singleton, 51, both of whom died suddenly of massive strokes, something is wrong with the health care system. Both of these men were very successful, and if 80 percent of strokes are preventable, then I would expect these two men to get the best medical care, but they are gone.
When I had my stroke, I was well aware that I had hypertension, but I was still not taking my prescribed medication. I was walking around with a time bomb and at any time I knew the bomb could explode, but I took a chance. Eventually it exploded, but I lived, and now part of my responsibility is to educate Americans about strokes with a primary focus on African-Americans.
After having my stroke, I was completely paralyzed on the entire right side. I spent the next seven weeks in rehabilitation relearning basic tasks: how to dress myself, how to talk, how to write with my left hand, and how to graduate from a wheelchair to a cane. My efforts paid off, but I did not recover 100 percent. All Americans must know more about stroke prevention and awareness, and they should know their personal and family numbers.
As a culture and community, Black Americans have the highest incidence of high blood pressure, with one out of two adults having some form of hypertension. May is stroke awareness month, and it is essential to understand the mechanics of blood pressure and what the numbers represent.
The higher number is the systolic number, and it represents the active portion of blood pressure, when the heart is pumping. This number should be around 120 or lower. The lower number represents the diastolic number, or the passive or resting portion of blood pressure. This number should be around 80 or lower.
Know your numbers, take your medication, educate your children and adult family members, and talk about your health. Visit a physician on a regular basis. Take control of your health—your life depends on it. Remember at any age a person can have a stroke, but as you get older you are more susceptible to having a stroke.
FAST is an acronym that everyone should know when they suspect that someone is having a stroke. The “F” stands for face, when one side of the face droops. The “A” stands for arm when the arm drops down. The “S” stands for speech; check for slurred or strange speech. The “T” stands for time; time is of the essence, call 911.
To learn more about strokes contact the American Stroke Association, and go to my You Tube and view my documentary, “High Blood Pressure: A State of Emergency in the African American Community.”