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Stories to celebrate survivors, raise health awareness through May

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
April 30, 2015 Updated: April 30, 2015 at 9:53 pm
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Stroke is the No. 1 cause of disability in the U.S., but this month we’re fighting back.

Throughout the National Stroke Awareness Month of May, The Gazette – in partnership with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services – will feature stories of local stroke survivors and the physicians who helped save their lives, along with tips on stroke prevention. Penrose-St. Francis was named a certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and is part of Centura Health, the region’s leading healthcare network.

Andrea Sinclair, communications specialist at Penrose-St. Francis, said Centura and Penrose-St. Francis are committed to spreading awareness and educating the community on crucial stroke prevention habits. “We believe it’s more productive for the society as a whole when we can help people get health and stay healthy,” she said. “That’s where prevention and awareness come in.”

Stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident or insult (CVA, CVI) occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and resulting in damaged cells. Stroke kills more women every year than breast cancer and is the Nos. 3 and 4 cause of death in women and men, respectively. Part of the problem, Sinclair said, is only 13.5 percent of those who suffer a stroke get to an emergency room at the appropriate time. “People don’t know what the signs of a stroke are, or they dismiss them as something minor,” she said.

The American Stroke Association suggests keeping the acronym F.A.S.T. in mind in the event of potential stroke symptoms: Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speech difficulty; Time to call 9-1-1. “If you have these symptoms, immediately get to the E.R.,” Sinclair said. When stroke is treated in a timely manner, there is a 30-40 percent higher chance doctors can minimize blood clotting and help the body avoid further damage.

“In general when people talk about having a stroke, they know what it is and seem to understand it’s a life-threatening situation, but I don’t think they know how to best respond,” Sinclair said. “If even one person is able to identify stroke symptoms after reading a story and use it to save a life, we’ve achieved our goal.”

Visit Penrosestfrancis.org/stroke to take a personal stroke risk assessment or learn more about the warning signs of stroke and the Penrose-St. Francis physicians who help save lives in our community. Follow along this month for more information on keeping yourself and loved ones healthy and stroke-free.

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