NINDS deputy director Dr. Audrey Penn and researchers from NINDS' Stroke Branch joined U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher at a Rockville Baptist church on Sunday, Oct. 8, for "Stroke Sunday," a health education and stroke event cosponsored by the American Stroke Association and the black commissioned officers' advisory group of the U.S. Public Health Service. The event brought attention to the major impact of stroke in the African American community and helped to inform church congregants about reducing their stroke risks.
"Although stroke has a disproportionate impact among African Americans, there is something we can do as a community to combat this disease," said Satcher from the church pulpit. "We can reduce our risk of stroke by lowering blood pressure, quitting smoking and keeping heart disease and diabetes in check. We can help our loved ones by knowing the warning signs of stroke and acting quickly in case of a stroke emergency."
Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States. The incidence of stroke among African Americans is nearly double that of white Americans and African Americans are more likely to die from stroke or its complications than any other ethnic group. In addition, African Americans suffer more severe strokes than white Americans and have a higher incidence of the treatable stroke risk factors, including high blood pressure and cigarette smoking.
In addition to remarks by the surgeon general, Penn and representatives from the cosponsors, church congregants and guests were offered free blood pressure checks, assessments of their personal risks for stroke, and health counseling to encourage awareness of the signs of stroke. Dr. Thomas DeGraba, head of the clinical stroke research unit, and Dr. Steven Warach, chief of the section on stroke diagnostics and therapeutics, answered questions and personally counseled many of the screening participants.
Penn discussed the underuse of stroke interventions and the need to consider stroke as an emergency condition. Despite significant advances in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of stroke, few candidates for treatment recognize the signs and get to a hospital in time to benefit from these advances.
"Stroke is a medical emergency where every minute counts," Penn said. "Immediate treatment can protect the brain from the damage caused by reduced blood flow and enhance chances for successful recovery."
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