Stroke: Learn About Recovery and the Symptoms of One of Delmarva’s Major Health Dangers
More than 7 million people in the United States today have survived a stroke. But life can often change afterward. The effects of these brain attacks create challenges with processes once taken for granted — anything from movement to speech to memory.
May is National Stroke Month, and Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury is highlighting the issue by hosting a special Stroke Support Group event that will bring together top specialists from the Medical Center to answer questions about stroke care and recovery. The event will be held on May 1, 2012 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Hallowell Conference Center at Peninsula Regional Medical Center, in Room A.
Providing their expertise will be neurosurgeon Gayatri Sonti, D.O., Ph.D.; physiatrist Giovanni David, MD; neurologist Richard Bird, MD; and hospitalist Kevin Healy, PA. Community members are invited to come meet other survivors of stroke and their caregivers, and to learn more about the resources that the support group can provide. To register for the event, call 410-912-7961.
Stroke is a particularly serious health issue on Delmarva. The Stroke Team at Peninsula Regional treats on average nearly 40 patients with stroke symptoms every month, volumes that rival centers like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and others in much larger, urban areas. Many different treatments — including some that were once only available hours from Delmarva — have been added to Peninsula Regional’s arsenal of stroke-fighting tools.
“Most recently, we added the ability to remove large embolic clots from the brain and restore blood flow,” says panelist Dr. Bird. The mechanical thrombectomy is a new option to help people who arrive at the Medical Center too late for traditional interventions.
The Primary Stroke Center at Peninsula Regional Medical Center is one of 17 hospitals in Maryland and the only hospital on the Eastern Shore to achieve and maintain the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for certification as a Primary Stroke Center since 2006. All stroke cases are directed to PRMC, because the state has deemed it the fastest and best equipped to handle this traumatic event.
And once patients have had a stroke, Peninsula Regional Medical Center has been finding ways to improve their life afterward. Many rehabilitation programs are available, and the Medical Center hosts the Stroke Support Group every month.
Learn the symptoms
One crucial piece of information that panelist Dr. Bird hopes everyone will learn about strokes: “When you have symptoms, don’t wait for them to go away. Go straight to the emergency room. Time means brain. The longer treatment is delayed, the more difficult stroke symptoms are to treat.”
More than 30 percent of people on the Lower Shore have risk factors for stroke — but still many people don’t know when they are at risk, nor are they aware of the symptoms.
To spare yourself or a loved one from the most devastating effects a stroke can bring, learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke. Learn FAST:
F — Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A — Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S — Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T — Time: If you observe any of these signs, then it’s time to call 9-1-1.
Why is the danger of stroke so great on Delmarva? Demographics — the region’s high percentage of older people — make a difference. Family history, age and race all play a role in stroke risk.
But Dr. Bird notes that lifestyle causes many of the problems he sees. “Fried chicken, oysters — we love them on Delmarva, but they can come back to haunt you,” he says. The often-preventable problems of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, heart disease and diabetes contribute to stroke risk. Smoking, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use can also raise risks significantly.
In the Seaford area, when the CDC took a poll in 2010 asking whether respondents had participated in a physical activity in the past month, more than 25 percent said no. According to the CDC’s most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey results, adults in Maryland reported the following risk factors for heart disease and stroke:
• 29.1% had high blood pressure
• 36.9% of those screened reported having high blood cholesterol
• 8.4% had diabetes
• 17.1% were current smokers
• 62.7% were overweight or obese
• 51.8% reported no exercise in the prior 30 days
• 73.4% ate fruit and vegetables less than 5 times a day.
Many of these stroke risk factors are preventable. Take steps to ensure a healthy lifestyle — one that includes a balanced diet, low sodium intake and physical activity. And most importantly, learn the signs of a stroke, so that if the worst happens, rapid intervention can spare you from a stroke’s most challenging effects.
If You Go
What: Stroke Support Panel
When: May 1, 2012, 1-3 p.m.
Where: Hallowell Conference Center Room A, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Salisbury