Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Learn to spot the warning signs of a stroke

By Maris Lambie 
Bengal News West Reporter
            A few years a go when Kelly Asher’s brother drove home from work feeling sick the last thing he thought he was experiencing was a stroke. 
            It started with a severe sudden headache and was followed with nausea, which is a little different than the usual stroke symptoms.
            “He was actually able to drive himself home. When he got home he seemed to be a little bit confused, so his wife took him to the hospital and he had had a stroke.” Asher, community coalition coordinator at the Erie County Health Department, said.  

           Asher’s brother has made a full recovery since then. He is one of the hundreds of thousands who had experienced a stroke that year.
            While the risk of stroke is something people should be concerned with year round, this May for National Stroke Awareness month local organizations and medical officials are concerned with raising a greater awareness.
            Each year about 795,000 people experience a stroke.  Nationally stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Locally, in Western New York, stroke is the third leading cause of death and is the number one cause of disability.  Experts believe the incidence is higher in urban areas.
            “The rates differ all across the Buffalo region but are more concentrated in the city and areas with a higher population of color,” Marc Natale, executive director of the Buffalo and Rochester region of the American Heart Association, said.
            Both Asher and Natale claim the rates in the area vary by neighborhood due to environmental and socioeconomic factors. In poorer urban areas there is an abundance of convenience stores with a lack of fresh produce, often leading to a greater consumption of processed foods, which can increase blood pressure and cholesterol and lead to higher obesity rates.
            Another factor can be healthcare.
            “If you don’t have good coverage you might not have access to a good physician. And if you have low income you might not have health insurance or could have trouble with transportation to get to a doctor,” Andrew Case, professor from the D'Youville College Physician Assistant program.
            While the American Heart Association reports death rates of stroke have dropped by 20 percent in the African-American population and by 17 percent in the Hispanic population, African Americans are still dying 13 years earlier and Hispanics 10 years earlier due to stroke. African Americans are also more likely to experience a stroke earlier in life.
            “Two in three African Americans have high blood pressure, which is one of the key contributing factors to strokes,” Natale said.
            Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and poor diet with little physical activity.  A less common risk factor is untreated atrial fibrillation, which is when someone has an irregular heartbeat.  
            The rates of stroke are significantly reduced when people eat a healthy diet, exercise for at least 90 minutes a week, maintain a low blood pressure and cholesterol and refrain from smoking. 

Deborah Steck, right, with marketing coordinator Sarah McQuade
 “Learning about the symptoms of stroke is important, too.  You can save a life just by recognizing the symptoms of a stroke event and taking the appropriate actions,” Dr. Maritza Baez, family medicine physician at Lifetime Health Medical Group's Mosher Health Center, said.
            Experts all agree that time is crucial. If someone is experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to call 911 right away, even if the symptoms have stopped. Experts emphasize that stroke patients should go to the hospital within the first three hours
            “Most people when surveyed claimed if they experienced any of these symptoms they would drink water then take a nap,” Deborah Steck, stroke coordinator at Buffalo General Medical Center said. “Or people might call a doctor and then wait for a call back. In some cases some may think that was the same as calling 911. Others might just call a family member. But you need to call 911 first.”