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Stroke Awareness

How Stroke Awareness Became Michelle Williams’ Destiny

Photo: Courtesy of Derek Blanks

Michelle Williams is passionate when it comes to raising awareness about stroke prevention, education and treatment. For her, it’s personal.

“My father had his first stroke in 1994, and then again in 2005,” says Williams. The singer, producer and songwriter shot to stardom 16 years ago, as a member of Destiny’s Child. “The stroke in 2005 was devastating. It paralyzed him and left him unable to talk.”

Family risk factors

In addition to her father’s illness, which she calls the result of smoking, diabetes and an unhealthy diet, Williams’ grandmother was diagnosed as a stroke victim in 2006. She received the news after visiting her doctor for a simple outpatient procedure.

Each year, roughly 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke. Rehabilitation can be lengthy and costly. To help reduce the risk, Williams firmly believes in “teaching people about diet, and knowing your family history.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year.

Improving public knowledge

Having partnered with the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association on Power To End Stroke, Williams is also committed to curbing misconceptions.

“There are many types and levels of stroke,” she explains, citing transient ischemic attack. This is a “mini stroke” that occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow in the brain. Symptoms often last only a few minutes to a couple of hours.

SAY YES TO PREVENTION: When it comes to preventing stroke, Williams advises to exercise, keep a healthy diet and minimize stress.

Williams says regardless of the kind of stroke, knowing how to respond is crucial: “I hope the future of stroke awareness continues to reveal the dangers, and how important it is to recognize symptoms of stroke and how to react quickly.”

Taking charge

On average, someone dies of stroke every four minutes. When it comes to specific steps one can take to reduce the risk, “I definitely make sure my fitness is on point,” says Williams. The star also advises limiting salt intake and keeping stress levels down.

Having enjoyed success as a solo artist, Broadway performer, actress and entrepreneur, Williams is enthusiastic about her future career plans. But she’s equally excited about her role as an activist and ambassador. “I’m so happy to share what I know to help prevent families from suffering. If a loved one has had a stroke, I’m with you,” she says. “I understand.”

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