Are You ‘Stroke Smart’?

On the list of the nation’s leading causes of long-term disability – amidst accidents and injuries, cancer and heart disease – you may be surprised to find stroke, the so-called “brain attack”,  a sudden decrease in blood flow to the brain, often caused by a clot.

More than 795,000 people experience strokes every year, but many do not receive proper treatment in time, potentially leading to severe disabilities. While prevention is critical, many people don’t realize they’re at risk. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms and treatments can save your life or the life of someone you care about.

To help people understand their risks and develop their own prevention strategies, Baptist Health South Florida will present “Be Stroke Smart,” a free stroke prevention program on Saturday, May 30, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, in the auditorium at Baptist Hospital, 8900 North Kendall Drive.

Chief of neurology Allan Herskowitz, M.D., of the Baptist Health Neuroscience Center, will talk about signs, symptoms, stroke prevention and the latest treatments. The program will also provide free screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, and help you calculate your BMI (body mass index). You can discuss your results with Baptist Health experts. While the program is free, registration is required. Call 786-596-3812 to register.

Baptist Hospital is certified by the Joint Commission as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, the highest level of stroke certification available. South Miami Hospital and West Kendall Baptist Hospital are designated Primary Stroke Centers by the Agency for Healthcare Administration. South Miami Hospital is also part of a county-wide stroke network.

Modifiable Risk Factors
“You have to be aware not only of the non-modifiable risk factors — risk factors we can’t control like being a male, having a family history of stroke or having a personal history of stroke, which increases your risk of stroke — but the modifiable ones, because you can actually do something about them,” Dr. Herskowitz says.

The good news, says Dr. Herskowitz, is that more people are surviving stroke today. Although it’s still a leading cause of death, stroke has dropped to number five behind heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and accidents. The increased survival rate is related to better prevention and treatment, he says.

“Primary prevention is when you try to identify people with risk factors and try to modify those factors before they’ve even had their first stroke,” Dr. Herskowitz says. “Risk factors for stroke are similar to those for heart attack. “

Risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Alcohol use in excess
  • About half of Americans have one of these risk factors. In addition, men are more likely to have a stroke than women, Dr. Herskowitz says, and people who have a family history of stroke or have already had a stroke are more likely to experience another event. African Americans are twice as likely to experience a stroke than whites and more likely to die from stroke complications, while risks for Hispanics are higher than for whites, but less than African Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control

    Sleep apnea also increases stroke increase as well as the use of illicit drugs like amphetamines and cocaine.

    “We’re better at controlling people’s risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol and still obesity, but those medical conditions are still big problems in this country,” Dr. Herskowitz says. “Even though there’s been improvement, there’s still a long way to go.”

    Healthcare that Cares

    With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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