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Papers of the Week

2020 Nov 06

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep



Sociodemographic and Geographic Variation in Awareness of Stroke Signs and Symptoms Among Adults – United States, 2017.


Jackson SL, Legvold B, Vahratian A, Blackwell DL, Fang J, Gillespie C, Hayes D, Loustalot F
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Nov 06; 69(44):1617-1621.
PMID: 33151923.


Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States (1). In 2017, on average, a stroke-related death occurred every 3 minutes and 35 seconds in the United States, and stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability (1). To prevent mortality or long-term disability, strokes require rapid recognition and early medical intervention (2,3). Common stroke signs and symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side; sudden confusion or trouble speaking; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance; and a sudden severe headache with no known cause. Recommended action at the first sign of a suspected stroke is to quickly request emergency services (i.e., calling 9-1-1) (2). Public education campaigns have emphasized recognizing stroke signs and symptoms and the importance of calling 9-1-1, and stroke knowledge increased 14.7 percentage points from 2009 to 2014 (4). However, disparities in stroke awareness have been reported (4,5). Knowledge of the five signs and symptoms of stroke and the immediate need to call emergency medical services (9-1-1), collectively referred to as "recommended stroke knowledge," was assessed among 26,076 adults aged ≥20 years as part of the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The prevalence of recommended stroke knowledge among U.S. adults was 67.5%. Stroke knowledge differed significantly by race and Hispanic origin (p<0.001). The prevalence of recommended stroke knowledge was highest among non-Hispanic White adults (71.3%), followed by non-Hispanic Black adults (64.0%) and Hispanic adults (57.8%). Stroke knowledge also differed significantly by sex, age, education, and urbanicity. After multivariable adjustment, these differences remained significant. Increasing awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke continues to be a national priority. Estimates from this report can inform public health strategies for increasing awareness of stroke signs and symptoms.