Event builds stroke awareness

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Palmetto Health Tuomey will host Stroke Awareness Day from 10 a.m. to noon Monday in Classroom 1. The event includes a presentation by Dr. Anil Yallapragada about brain health, information about the benefits of Mediterranean cooking from Tuomey dietitian Scott Crosier and free health screenings for blood pressure and diabetes. Space is limited, so registration is required.

Yallapragada is the medical director of the Palmetto Health Stroke Center as well as a neurologist at Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group Neurology.

Attending screenings and gaining education about stroke and high blood pressure is one of the ways you can protect yourself from becoming a stroke victim. The National Stroke Association reports that as many as 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by working with a health care professional to reduce personal risk. Sumter Stroke Awareness Day helps you connect with a health care professional and provides you with the knowledge you need to live a healthier lifestyle.

"A stroke can be a devastating, life-changing event," says Dr. Scot Dilts, medical director of the Emergency Department at Palmetto Health Tuomey. "Strokes can result in the sudden inability to walk, use an arm, speak, swallow or even lose vision. The best 'intervention' for stroke is prevention."

Dilts said that while knowing the causes of stroke are important, learning about your own personal risk factors from your genetics and lifestyle can help you prevent a devastating medical event.

"It's good to be aware of what a stroke looks like, what the symptoms are and know that if you develop the symptoms of stroke, the best treatment is to get to an emergency department right away," he said.

Stroke symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg on one side of the body, abrupt loss or dimness of vision, sudden loss of strength, coordination, speech or the ability to understand speech, sudden and severe headache, followed by loss of consciousness, unexplained dizziness or sudden falls. If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, it is important to call 9-1-1 right away and get medical help, Dilts said.

"Treatment for stroke must be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms," he said. "So taking the time to educate yourself about the symptoms of stroke and when to get to a treatment facility are extremely important because treatment is time sensitive."

The leading causes of stroke also are the most important controllable risk factors: high cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure. Eliminating these from your life and knowing other risk factors you may face are strong ways to help prevent you from having a stroke. Diabetes is also a contributing factor for stroke. Diabetics should be vigilant about controlling their disease, taking their medications regularly and maintaining a healthy diet.

Heart attacks and strokes are big issues for South Carolina. According to the Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center, this state is in the "Stroke-Belt," an 11-state region of the United States where studies show that the risk of stroke is 34 percent higher for the general population than it is in other areas of the country.

Risk factors that lead to strokes are high in the Sumter community. Our population has more than a 30 percent obesity rate in adults, where 14 percent of adults have diabetes and almost 20 percent of adults smoke. The leading cause of death in Sumter can be traced to heart disease, which can accompany stroke. These percentages are based on a 2015 County Health Ranking that places Sumter 22nd out of 46 counties for health outcomes.

Registration for Stroke Awareness Day is open and free to the public. Reserve your seat to learn about how to prevent a stroke from happening to you by calling 1-800-249-4340.