With stroke now the second-leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, it is important that people of all ages become aware of stroke and know how to spot its symptoms. A study from the American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association showed that, while the rate of stroke is decreasing among US adults 75 and older, it is increasing for younger adults, aged 49 and below.
With the increasing risk of stroke for parents of young children, it is important that their children are aware of stroke and how to respond if their parent or any other adult they live with is having a suspected stroke, says Ken Korber, a former surgical and cardiovascular physician assistant who is now an author of children’s books.
Korber, who remains updated about developments in the health field, especially about stroke, says that recent studies have shown an overlap between cardiovascular issues and diabetes, with both endocrinologists and cardiologists now studying stroke. Hypertension has long been the primary underlying condition associated with stroke.
However, over the past 30 years, obesity has been the fastest-growing risk factor for stroke, with fatalities growing globally. According to this study, urgent implementation of effective primary prevention strategies for stroke is crucial in preventing the global stroke burden from growing out of control, especially in low-income countries. Korber stresses the importance of weight management for adults as one of the most important ways to reduce their risk of stroke. It is also important to train children, from a young age, to have a healthy relationship with food to help avoid obesity and hypertension later in life.
When a person is having a suspected stroke, it’s important that it is recognized right away in order to seek appropriate help. Stroke is a time-sensitive emergency, and a few minutes’ difference could be a matter of life and death. Thus, it is important that everyone, regardless of age, be aware of its symptoms. This is where knowledge of the FAST method is crucial. FAST, which stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call emergency services, is an internationally recognized mnemonic that helps people spot a suspected stroke and assess whether to seek emergency help.
Unfortunately, despite the growing availability of information facilitated by the internet, awareness of stroke seems to be lacking in many areas. In many low- and middle-income countries, current stroke guidelines are lacking and do not consider the resource availability and context for implementation. According to this study, despite the evident benefits of stroke guidelines, these are underutilized in clinical practice – which compromises patient care and recovery.
Drawing from his long experience in the medical field, Korber combined this with his passion for writing to create Little Health Ambassadors, a series of books that extends health education for children beyond the 10-minute visit to the doctor’s office and reinforces good health habits taught at home and school.
One of the books in the Little Health Ambassadors series is Grace Saves The Day With FAST. The book’s protagonist, an 8-year-old girl named Grace, learns about the signs of stroke and the FAST method, so she is able to spot them in her aunt. With the help of Arco, her talking dog, Grace is able to ask for help, saving her aunt’s life.
The book is co-authored with Bill Turck, Korber’s friend and a stroke survivor who was able to make a full recovery, thanks to quick and decisive action.
“Time is always of the essence when it comes to stroke,” Korber says. “If not spotted in time, it can be fatal or result in a life-long debilitating condition. My hope with Grace Saves The Day With FAST is that more children become aware of stroke and how to spot it, allowing them to be of help if it happens to an adult in their lives. With strokes becoming more common in younger adults, it’s not only Grandma and Grandpa who are at risk. Even Mom, Dad, Aunt, and Uncle need to watch out for strokes.”