By Kim Walter
Even though World Stroke Day is in October, Valley Health is hosting a prevention and awareness event at Winchester Medical Center this Saturday.
Debby Massie, stroke program coordinator, said she had originally scheduled an event for the end of October 2012, but had to cancel due to Hurricane Sandy.
"I didn't want to wait a whole year to host a community event like this," she said Wednesday. "So we figured it would work since May is stroke month."
On Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the campus' conference center, community members can learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke, as well as the presence of any risk factors in their lives. Valley Health employees will be on hand to answer questions, offer local resources and provide risk factor screenings.
From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., participants also can receive free blood work done to find their fasting cholesterol levels. Massie said the profile is important because it shows a patient's total cholesterol. It also highlights the levels of "bad and good cholesterol."
With that specific information, participants have a better chance of fixing the issue and taking action, like medication or modifying their diet, to prevent a stroke.
Massie said that 80 percent of strokes are preventable, and with the increasing numbers of stroke victims, prevention is key.
One out of every six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. Additionally, stroke is the No. 1 cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, Massie said.
After working with stroke patients for more than 20 years, Massie said the biggest change has come with the ages of stroke victims.
"The face of stroke is getting younger," she said. "Here in Winchester and across the state, we're seeing more and more people in their 30s and 40s having a stroke."
She said the shift in age comes with the general change in lifestyle. Along with increasing diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, comes the increased likelihood of having a stroke.
Massie said she hopes the event will educate people on what they can do to avoid a stroke, since the result is more than likely a bad one.
"I always notice people avoiding me when I have a table or booth set up to talk about strokes," she said. "People are scared ... they don't want to talk about it. They say, 'We're all going to die of something,' and refuse to give up the smoking or poor eating choices. But there's a higher chance of them getting some kind of disability. Why would someone be OK with living a disabled life, dependent on others, when it could've been avoided?"
The theme for Saturday's event revolves around the "Stroke Chain of Survival," which includes awareness, pre-hospital care, acute care and post-acute care.
Massie said participants could benefit from learning about all the links, including options for rehabilitation after suffering from a stroke. She said that getting appropriate post-acute care is vital, but tough to do.
"It can be challenging in today's health care world, with the reduced benefits ... especially for a patient on Medicare," she said. "But this is all about avoiding that."
Individuals should register by Thursday evening if they'd like to get the blood work done. Other than that, anyone who is interested is welcome, even if it's just to find out their "risk score."
"Some things, like heart defects, can't be avoided or detected early on," Massie said. "But besides that, there are so many ways to cut down on your chances of having a stroke. The outcome of going through that can affect every day life."
For more information or to register for the blood work, call 540-536-4118.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org