Thursday, May 10, 2001

Stroke screenings
aim to save lives

The free program will
help people recognize
the warning signs

Star-Bulletin staff

Free stroke-risk screenings are being offered this month on Oahu to help people become aware of the warning signs of stroke and the need for immediate emergency treatment.

Operation Stroke, an American Heart Association program, is aimed at reducing the time it takes stroke patients to get to the hospital and be assessed for tPA, a clot-busting drug.

The drug, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996, significantly reduces the debilitating effects of stroke and minimizes permanent disability.

But it must be administered within three hours from the time stroke symptoms begin.

About 5 percent of stroke patients now arrive at the hospital in time to receive the treatment, according to the American Heart Association.

An AHA of Hawaii survey showed only 52 percent of Honolulu residents recognize the common stroke warning sign: sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

Other signs are sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination and severe headache with no known cause.

Dr. Cherylee Chang, director of the Neuroscience Institute and Stroke Center at the Queen's Medical Center, said, "Improving early recognition of stroke, reducing the time to treatment, and controlling the risk factors for stroke are our best defenses in the war against stroke."

Chang, who chairs the AHA of Hawaii's Operation Stroke Task Force, said, "Immediate medical attention can make all the difference in the quality of life for a stroke survivor.

By knowing the warning signs and calling 911, we can all help reduce the devastating effects of stroke."

Operation Stroke also is targeting high-risk populations, such as native Hawaiians, Filipinos, the elderly, diabetics, smokers and women.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or other particle.

Nerve cells can't function without oxygen and die within minutes. The part of the body controlled by those brain cells can't function, which can lead to death or drastically reduced quality of life.

Chances of a stroke can be reduced by a healthy lifestyle, including controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol, being physically active, avoiding obesity, stopping smoking and working with a doctor to prevent or treat atrial fibrillation (rapid, uncoordinated beating of the heart's upper chambers) and carotid artery disease (which affects the blood vessels that supply the brain).

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the nation, and a leading cause of severe long-term disability.

The American Stroke Association, created in November 1998 as a division of the AHA, spent almost $461 million in 1999-2000 on stroke-related research and programs.

For more information about stroke, call the AHA of Hawaii at 538-7021, extension 34, or visit the American Stroke Association Web site:

The free community screenings, which began this week, are as follows:

>> May 12, "Stroke -- What You Need to Know," a public symposium at 9 a.m. at Kuakini Medical Center, Hale Palama Mau Auditorium.

>> May 16, Longs Drug Store Moiliili, 2220 S. King St., 9 a.m. to noon.

>> May 19, "Stroke -- What you Need to Know," 2 p.m. public symposium at Kapiolani Medical Center at Pali Momi Diamond Head Conference Room.

>> May 21, Pearlridge Center Uptown (near the Food Court), 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Blood sugar testing also will be offered.

>> May 23, Longs Drug Store, Mililani Town Center, 95-1249D Meheula Parkway, 9 a.m. to noon.

>> May 30, Seventh Annual Prime Time Health Fair, Neal Blaisdell exhibition hall, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

>> May 30, "The Impact of Stroke on Women," a public symposium at 6:30 p.m., the Queen's Medical Center, Kamehameha Auditorium.

E-mail to City Desk

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