Stroke-risk screenings available for free

Through StrokeCheck, participating hospitals and the American Heart Association help people learn how to avoid strokes and how to recognize the symptoms promptly if they’re suffering one.

Since Valley residents turned out for the first StrokeCheck in 2001, a few each year have been sent immediately to emergency rooms.

“We’ve seen people in the midst of TIAs,” physician Scott Agran says, referring to transient ischemic attacks, sometimes called “mini strokes” because the strokelike symptoms often are a precursor to the real thing.

“We’ve caught people with atrial fibrillation – an abnormal heart rhythm that significantly raises the risk for stroke – and people with high glucose and people whose blood pressure was off the charts.”

In the past 10 years, about 18,000 free screenings have been completed. This year’s risk assessments, provided by hospitals and the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association, will be available by appointment at 22 hospitals statewide, 16 of them in the Phoenix area, on select dates today through May 26.

But it’s not just the program’s dramatic, on-the-spot catches that gratify Agran, founder of StrokeCheck and head of neuroradiology for Banner Boswell and Del E. Webb hospitals in the West Valley.

Two other, harder-to-quantify results also hearten him: the number of screening participants who have avoided a stroke because they were taught risk-lowering lifestyle modifications and the number who learned to recognize stroke symptoms and call 911 without delay.

“People are taught, ‘Don’t worry – it’ll go away,’ ” Agran says. “But there are certain things, like signs of a stroke, that mean you have to get to the hospital right away. For every minute you delay, there’s brain tissue that can die.”

The death rate from strokes dropped 44.8 percent in the most recent 10-year period for which final data are available, according to the American Heart Association’s 2011 statistical report. Still, there is much to be tackled, making the educational component of StrokeCheck an important one.

The Heart Association’s report says the percentage of U.S. adults with factors that contribute to strokes and heart disease remains high: More than 67 percent are overweight, 33.5 percent have high blood pressure, 15 percent have elevated total cholesterol, 8 percent have diabetes and 36.8 percent are pre-diabetic. In addition, 23.1 percent of men and 18.1 percent of women use tobacco.

In addition to printed educational materials, participating StrokeCheck hospitals provide such services as risk-assessment forms, a video viewing and checks of blood pressure and heart rate.

Other services may include counseling by a medical professional, a check of the carotid arteries, a pulse check for peripheral vascular disease and copies of screening results to take to your doctor.

Reach the reporter at 602-444-8120 or connie.midey@arizonarepublic.com.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/2011/04/28/20110428strokechecks0428.html#ixzz1Kr5zO8LF

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