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The Stroke Belt: Mississippi and other southern state’s stroke cases on the rise

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 9:55 AM EDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Every three minutes and thirty-three seconds. The amount of time between another American dying from a stroke each day. (AHA)

Strokes still remain as the 5th leading cause of death in the country, and with the shock of the pandemic, rates increased over the past year.

May is National Stroke Month, and once again, Mississippi is in the top ten for annual stroke cases.

“Mississippi along with a lot of other southern states are called the stroke belt.”

Dr. Zaineb Daud, a neurologist with Anderson Regional Health says this is due to alarming cases of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity in the state as well as high smoking rates.

And amid COVID, there’s been an increase in stroke episodes due to some diagnosed with the virus having greater brain inflammation.

“The risk is higher after age 65 among men, but there’s increased risk among women who are on birth control pills, who are smokers, and also who have history of migraines,” says Dr. Daud.

Minorities suffer even further. African American and Hispanic populations account for the majority of strokes.

In fact, according to The United States Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 50 percent more likely to experience a stroke in their lifetime, possibly more than once.

“There are about 800,000 new strokes every year, out of which, 200,000 strokes are in patients who have already had a stroke in the last five years.”

If you witness someone suffering from a stroke, think fast—literally.

How to identify stroke symptoms F.A.S.T.:

  • F- FACE, weakness in facial muscles
  • A-weakness of ARMS or limbs
  • S- slurred or changed SPEECH
  • T- TIME, call 911 or go to the ER immediately

Having a stroke is a scary experience, but the aftermath is also life changing.

Dr. Aamir Hashmat is the Medical Director for in and out patient stroke rehabilitation in Meridian.

“If patients do not control their risk factors, the chances of having a re-occuring stroke in the first year is 36 percent. It’s very high, very high,” says Dr. Hashmat.

He says there’s several steps to the rehabilitation process

He says the number one is characterization of the disability, then what are the impediments of daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, the ability to eat. So identify all those disabilities "

Dr. Hashmat says they also assess the patient’s mood and memory, but prevention is most important

“Go to your primary physician, your neurologist, and get your health checked all the time. Keep your cholesterol under control, keep your blood pressure under control, take your medicines regularly. Exercise periodically, at least three or four times a week. And get your weight under control,” says Hashmat.

For more on stroke care and prevention visit the American Heart Association’s website or contact Tom C. Maynor Rehabilitation Center for service information.

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