May is Stroke Awareness Month

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May is National Stroke Awareness Month, which is important because stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, according to the National Stroke Association. “St. Mary’s County has one of the highest stroke rates in Maryland,” said Dawn Yeitrakis, director of St. Mary’s Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Yeitrakis stated that the unfortunate statistic is the reason why St. Mary’s Hospital has become a Primary Stroke Center, to help provide advanced stroke care and treatment close to home. The hospital was the first in Southern Maryland to receive a full five-year primary stroke certification. Last year, the hospital treated more than 300 stroke and transient ischemic attack, “mini stroke,” patients.  
The hospital is also a part of “Get with the Guidelines,” a hospital-based quality improvement program for the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. The program empowers hospitals to consistently treat heart and stroke patients according to the most up-to-date guidelines.
In the weeks after a stroke, rehabilitative care is also an important part of recovery. Patients can take advantage of St. Mary’s Hospital’s physical, occupational and speech therapy services. They also receive a personal evaluation of their risk factors, as well as written educational materials, to help them with prevention.
The hospital’s Mobile Outreach Center travels throughout the community to provide stroke education and free blood pressure checks. Health Connections also offers a free Stroke Survivors Forum and Stroke Focus Groups.
The next Stroke Survivors Forum is scheduled for June 7 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Health Connections building in Leonardtown, Md. During this free session, stroke survivors and their families can learn more about recovering from a stroke, share their experience and enjoy the friendship of other survivors and their families. For more information, call (301) 475-6019. 
Am I at Risk?
Anyone can have a stroke, but your chances increase if you have certain risk factors, including:
  • Age (over the age of 55)
  • Gender (male)
  • Race (African-American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander)
  • Family history
  • Previous stroke or TIA
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation, which is caused when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably, producing an irregular heartbeat
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco use/smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Obesity/excessive weight
Source: National Stroke Association

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