Making a difference

From 2003-2013, the mortality rate decreased more than 34 percent for stroke and more than 29 percent for total cardiovascular disease. The downward trend is a result of decades of groundbreaking research, impactful legislation and the efforts of thousands of healthcare professionals and volunteers.

While considerable progress has been made, an American has a stroke every 40 seconds and about 1 in 3 U.S. deaths every year are attributed to cardiovascular diseases.

One way everyone can join the fight is by learning the warning signs for stroke, heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest—and what to do in an emergency.

Signs of stroke

In a recent study, only 8 percent of Americans could define each letter in the F.A.S.T. acronym for common stroke warning signs, which means bystanders may not be spotting a stroke immediately and people may not be getting the quick treatment they need. To spot a stroke F.A.S.T., remember:

  • (F)ace dropping
  • (A)rm weakness
  • (S)peech difficulty
  • (T)ime to call 911

The sooner someone suffering a stroke gets to an appropriate hospital and evaluated for treatment, the greater their chances for recovery.

Signs of heart attack

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest, but other signs are frequently missed with dire consequences. These signs, with or without chest pain, may signal a heart attack:

  • Discomfort in other areas of the body: one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Tune in to your body’s warning system and call 911 at the first sign of a heart attack.

Signs of cardiac arrest

About 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. If you see an adult suddenly collapse, remember two steps:

  1. Call 911
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of their chest until help arrives

Continuing to learn, act and work together to save lives from heart disease and stroke will enable more people to celebrate graduations, birthdays, a favorite team’s victory and life’s other special moments. And isn’t that what it’s all about?