Hispanic Americans Less Likely to Recognize Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Emphasizes Awareness and Importance of Calling 9-1-1

While stroke, heart disease and other cerebrovascular diseases are the fourth leading cause of death in Hispanics – stroke and heart disease account for one in four deaths among Hispanic men and one in three deaths among Hispanic women - findings suggest that a stroke knowledge deficit is more pronounced among this population. In recognition of Stroke Awareness Month, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is working to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke and the urgency of seeking medical attention among the Hispanic community.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries blood and oxygen to the brain is blocked by plaque or a blood clot (acute ischemic stroke), or breaks (hemorrhagic stroke), destroying up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute. Approximately 795,000 strokes occur each year.

According to the Office of Minority Health, Hispanics between the ages of 35 and 64 are more likely to suffer a stroke than non-Hispanic whites. In a survey of 2,000 women about stroke, Hispanics were less aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke than Caucasians. Furthermore, in a separate study of 25,426 individuals, non-English speaking Hispanic Americans, compared to those who speak English, were also less likely to identify the signs and symptoms of stroke or recognize the need for immediate medical attention.

"Stroke can occur suddenly and without warning," said Juan Fitz, MD, ACEP spokesperson and Assistant Medical Director, Emergency Department, Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, TX, who rushed his own wife Dina Fitz to an emergency department when she began experiencing the signs and symptoms of a stroke.  "When my wife's face began to droop and she couldn't speak, we immediately sought medical attention which we believe helped aid in her recovery."

With stroke, time is of the essence, so knowing the six primary signs and symptoms of a stroke is crucial. They include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the face or facial drooping
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in an arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

"When I had my stroke I knew immediately something was wrong and thankfully I was around others who knew how to respond," said stroke survivor, Dina Fitz. "But often women - especially Hispanic women - have the tendency to ignore warning signs as they put the health of family members and everyone else first. Recognizing that these symptoms may be signs of a stroke is crucial."  

In the event that you or someone you know begins to show signs or symptoms of a stroke, ACEP recommends the National Stroke Association's F.A.S.T. test as a quick screening tool:  

  • Face – Ask the person to smile.  Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms.  Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.  Are the words slurred?  Can they repeat the sentence correctly?
  • Time – If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Immediate medical attention may limit the effects of stroke. Therefore, call 9-1-1 or get to the hospital.  Brain cells are dying.

"Stroke is a medical emergency," said Sandra M. Schneider, MD, FACEP, ACEP President. "If you think you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms of a stroke, it is imperative you call 9-1-1 for immediate medical attention, even if the symptoms go away."

Support for the campaign was provided by Genentech Inc., a member of the Roche Group.

For more information about Hispanics and stroke, visit www.stroke.org.

About the American College of Emergency Physicians

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.  For more information, visit www.emergencycareforyou.org.

CONTACT: Dana Karpinski, +1-908-234-9900


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.