MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The death of actor Luke Perry from a stroke at the age of 52 has sparked a national conversation about strokes from symptoms to the age of victims.
The Mid-South actually has the highest rate for stroke deaths in the United States.
Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi sit in the middle of what's known as the Stroke Belt of the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
This region is where the risk of stroke is higher than other parts of the country, and doctors say Tennessee sits as the buckle of the belt.
“If you live in Shelby County you have a 30 percent higher risk of having a stroke compared to the rest of the country,” said Dr. Balaji Krishnaiah, a vascular neurologist with Methodist University Hospital.
He said the Stroke Belt population's poor diet and lack of resources, along with the large African American population who are genetically more likely to suffer a stroke, drive up the stroke risk above the national average.
“If they recognize these symptoms early get regular checkups with their primary care physicians and take medications as prescribed by the physician the strokes are preventable,” Dr. Krishnaiah said.
Eighty percent of strokes are preventable. Common risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity.
Dr. Krishnaiah advised to recognize the signs of a stroke, you’ve got to think F.A.S.T. – is the face dropping, can you raise both arms, is the speech slurred? Then it’s time to call 911.
“Every minute lost is, you lost two million neurons,” Dr. Krishnaiah said. “So time lost is brain lost.”
New data shows strokes happening in people as early as 45 years old, with men more likely to have a stroke in their early 50′s.
“In the past few years there is more and more literature coming up showing that stroke is no more a disease for the older generation, older people,” Dr. Krishnaiah said.
Doctors say reducing your chances of a stroke begins with a healthy lifestyle.
To learn more, visit the National Stroke Association’s website.