Make sure you plan to enjoy retirement

Filed under: Opinion |

It helps you land your first job with a corner office. It records and plays back your daughter’s wedding and your son’s graduation. It helps you remember your anniversary and plan for your retirement. It isn’t a broker, a PDA, or personal assistant. It’s your brain. It’s what defines you as you – and it’s irreplaceable.

If a stroke damages your brain you may become disabled. You may even need a caregiver. However, caregiver or stroke survivor isn’t a role many plan to play in their retirement.

For many, strokes occur when people are entering retirement or are already there.

The estimated lifetime cost of care for a patient who suffers an ischemic (clot-caused) stroke in the United States is $140,048.

Many retirees don’t plan for long-term disability and rehabilitation. They look forward to enjoying this time as a grandparent, vacationer, golfer or gardener. Stroke can change those plans.

About 700,000 people in America have a new or recurrent stroke every year and about 163,000 die. Stroke is the nation’s No. 3 killer and a leading cause of serious disability. About 4.8 million stroke survivors live in America today.

And yet, a recent poll showed that only 58 percent of the population knows how to protect their brains from stroke. Forty-two percent of respondents could not name a single stroke warning sign. Only 39 percent of the population would choose to seek information on stroke.

“It is unsettling that more people are not taking action against this debilitating disease,” said Dr. Larry Goldstein, spokesman and chairman of the American Stroke Association’s Advisory Committee. “Stroke is a serious condition that can affect people at all ages, either directly or indirectly.” About 50 percent to 70 percent of stroke survivors regain functional independence, but 15 percent to 30 percent are permanently disabled and will need care.

Prevention is your best protection.

First, recognize and reduce your risk. You can control or eliminate these risks: high blood pressure (levels higher than 140/90mm Hg), smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, high cholesterol levels and excessive drinking.

Second, learn the warning signs of stroke:

n Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;

n Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;

n Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;

n Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;

n Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Treat stroke like the emergency it is. The simple truth is this: brain cells continue to die as long as a stroke isn’t treated. With stroke, time lost is brain lost. So call 911 immediately.

Third, share this information with friends and family.

Visit to learn more about stroke, or call (888) 4- STROKE.

Don’t leave your future to chance. Take control and protect your brain. It can’t be replaced.

The goal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, is to reduce disability and death from stroke through research, education and advocacy. In its 2002-2003 fiscal year, the association spent $141.4 million on stroke.