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At any age, stroke awareness is crucial

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 1:18 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - May is American Stroke Month. The American Stroke and Heart Associations are trying to raise awareness for the signs and symptoms -- especially for women.

Christal Howard, a former TV reporter turned Frisco, TX newspaper publisher, always had a long to-do list.

“But I never quite put myself at the top of that to-do list and my own health,” said Howard.

In 2018, the mom of two started having bad headaches but chalked it up to migraines she always had for years.

“Then one night, I woke up in the middle of the night and it was exceptionally painful,” said Howard. “To the point that I thought I might throw up. So I reached over to wake up my husband and when I did, no words would come out.”

After a trip to the emergency room, she was sent home with medicine so she could sleep off the migraines. But the following week - it got worse. It was to the point that at work, she could barely speak. Another trip to the hospital finally revealed she was having multiple strokes. One of her arteries was coming apart and blocking blood flow to her brain.

This was shocking news to a 34-year-old.

“At the time I had no history. So I did not prioritize that. But had I had a primary care physician, I probably would have sought him out and maybe he would’ve been more in tune to the fact that something more was going on here.”

Dr. Claudia Perez of Texas Health Fort Worth says strokes can strike anyone at any age. High blood pressure is the leading cause, and that’s more common in women due to pregnancy, menopause and birth control pills.

“About 50% of women have high blood pressure and when we look at studies, about 75% of those with high blood pressure don’t have their blood pressure controlled,” said Perez.

Using the letters in the “FAST” method can help you see the warning signs of stroke.

Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech slurring, and the “T” stands for precious time to call 911 - even if the symptoms disappear.

Howard thought she lead a healthy lifestyle before her stroke. Now she wants others to know it can happen to anyone.

“I think it’s important to know that you have to pay attention,” said Howard. “While you may be an outlier, you’re never too young and it’s never impossible for it to happen to you or someone you love.”

Doctor Perez said most strokes are preventable with diet, exercise, and knowledge of family history.

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