Free stroke screenings Jan. 22

DOWNEY - Lifesaving carotid artery screenings, which can cost upwards of $500 at a doctor's office, will be provided free at the first Primary Stroke Prevention seminar of 2014, which will be held Wednesday, Jan. 22 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the Rio Hondo Event Center. The event is nearly sold out, with nearly 200 Downey-area individuals already signed up. Reservations may be made online at or by phone at (888) 794-9466.

The screening process is simple - a medical technician uses an ultrasound device to determine if individuals have plaque buildup in the carotid arteries that could mean the person is at-risk for a life-threatening stroke. Adults are advised to have this painless ultrasound screening annually, because it is a critical element in assessing a person's risk for stroke.

In addition to the carotid artery screenings, free blood pressure screenings will also be offered at the seminar. Last year, many individuals were diagnosed with life-threatening, extremely high blood pressure at the Downey Primary Stroke Prevention seminars.

"Stroke has become the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. and the fourth leading cause of death in our nation," said RTH Stroke Foundation President Deborah Massaglia. And yet, among adults age 50 and over, a recent study showed that 97% could not identify a single stroke symptom, and only 1% could name stroke as a leading cause of death.

The facts about stroke are chilling:

* Nearly 800,000 stroke cases are reported each year in the United States.

* On average, one American dies from stroke every four minutes.

* Of all stroke survivors, 90% have permanent deficits.

* Women are two times more likely to die from stroke than breast cancer.

Here is the good news: "We know that stroke is one of the most preventable of all life-threatening diseases, with more than 80% percent of all strokes being preventable," Deborah said. "That's why we're offering this free seminar to help prevent strokes throughout the Downey community."

The upcoming event will be the first of five Primary Stroke Prevention Seminars that will be conducted this year by the team of the RTH Stroke Foundation, Rancho Research Institute, Rio Hondo Event Center and The Downey Patriot.

Last year more than 1,000 individuals from the local area attended Downey-area stroke prevention seminars, and more than 100 individuals were found to have blocked carotid arteries, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and/or extremely high blood pressure.

The carotid arteries are two large blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the large, front part of the brain. This is where thinking, speech, personality, and sensory and motor functions reside. You can feel your pulse in the carotid arteries on each side of your neck, right below the angle of the jaw line.

If you have carotid artery disease, the arteries become narrow, usually because of atherosclerosis. This is the buildup of cholesterol and other material in an artery. If a blood clot sticks in the narrowed arteries, blood can't reach your brain.

"A significant blockage in the carotid artery can cause a stroke, which is why it is important to get an annual carotid artery screening," said Rancho Research Institute President Yaga Szlachcic, MD. "In the doctor's office, this screening can cost $500 or more, but by signing up now, local residents can not only save a lot of money, they may also save their life."

You may not have any symptoms of carotid artery disease. Plaque builds up in the carotid arteries over time with no warning signs until you have a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke.

"In last year's first local carotid artery screenings, we discovered a person who had a more than 80 percent blockage of their carotid," Deborah said. "Because this was immediately life-threatening, our screenings saved this person's life."

Before the screenings begin at the Jan. 22 event, Deborah will take the attendees through a fascinating 45-minute journey through the warning signs of stroke and stroke prevention strategies.

The statistics of stroke are scary. "Of the nearly 800,000 Americans experience strokes each year," Deborah said, "more than a half-million of these cases are new, and one-third of them occur with people who are under the age of 65."

She said that there are five sudden warning signs of a stroke, including:

*Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg

*Sudden confusion or trouble understanding

*Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

*Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

*Sudden severe headache with no known cause "At the RTH Stroke Foundation, our goal is to educate through seminars, because we know that stroke prevention is a key element in reducing the number of strokes in this country," she said.

Deborah explained that when one is having a stroke, time is of the essence. "Someone experiencing a stroke needs to get treatment within three hours for the best outcome, but sooner is better, because time is brain," Deborah said. "Every minute you go without treatment after a stroke, you are losing neurons and potentially losing additional brain function.

"We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about how to avoid having a stroke to make a reservation for the January 22 event as soon as possible because it will be a total sellout," Deborah said. "Don't miss it, because you may be the one whose life is saved!"

********** Published: Jan. 9, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 39