Stroke Prevention

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More studies are finding a greater incidence of stroke in the Hispanic community. Banner Boswell Medical Center is the first nationally certified stroke center in the West Valley. Dr. Darry Johnson, neurologist and medical director of Banner Boswell Medical Center’s stroke program, discusses why Hispanics are at a greater risk of stroke than people of other ethnicities and offers advice on how to prevent a stroke from happening.

José Cárdenas: More and more studies are finding a greater incidence of stroke in the Hispanic community. Stroke is the fourth highest killer of Hispanics. The west valley is now home to the first nationally-certified stroke center. Here to talk about the center, how to lower risk factors for a stroke, and more, is Dr. Darry Johnson, neurologist and medical director of Banner Boswell Medical Center's Stroke Program. Dr. Johnson, welcome to "Horizonte."

Darry Johnson: Thank you for having me.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk first about the fact of the designation of the Banner Boswell program. What does it mean?

Darry Johnson: It took several months for us to receive that designation. We had several meetings at the hospital level in terms of getting everything ready for joint commission certification. We have several protocols in place for a patient from the time they have symptoms and call 9-1-1 to the time they leave the hospital and go to rehabilitation. So we had emergency medical services on board, the emergency department, the neurologists and the physician who is take care of stroke patients and the nursing staff and the rehabilitation crew, and every step of the way, we had to meet very stringent criteria in terms of getting this accreditation.

José Cárdenas: And this is a primary stroke center, meaning in the west valley, if someone suffers a stroke, that's where you want people taken?

Darry Johnson: Absolutely, and let me stress to the listening audience, the importance of calling 9-1-1. Many times well meaning family members will put their spouse or loved one in a vehicle and take them to the hospital. We've learned over the years it's much better they call 9-1-1 and taken by ambulance, it's faster and they're put at head of the line when they get to the hospital.

José Cárdenas: Before we get back to talking about the treatment people receive. Let's talk about the significance of the problem amongst Hispanics. How bad is it?

Darry Johnson: As you said, it's the fourth largest killer. If you break it down between males and female, 25% of Hispanic males die from stroke and over 33% of Hispanic females die from stroke. And if you break it down into types of strokes where there are hemorrhages in the brain, for some reason, Hispanics are more likely to have hemorrhages than, say, Caucasians and suffer strokes at an earlier age. Statistics say somewhere around the age of 67 versus the age of 80 for Caucasians.

José Cárdenas: And why are Hispanics more susceptible to strokes and getting them earlier?

Darry Johnson: There may be some genetic predispositions but more likely, it has to do with risk factors. We know the Hispanic population has a high incidence of diabetes, hypertension and obesity. And those are the main factors.

José Cárdenas: People are suffering -- someone is suffering a stroke, what are the symptoms?

Darry Johnson: It varies and this is where it gets confusing. Most people on the street know the signs of a heart attack. But in a stroke it's so variable. For some it's loss of language or they're speaking gibberish. For others it's a weakness on one side of the body. Or others sudden loss of vision out of an eye. For others, it's the worst headache of their life. Severe, sudden vertigo. It varies. But the point is it's sudden. It doesn't come on gradually.

José Cárdenas: We've had on the screen, the website for Banner Boswell and people can get more information about symptoms.

Darry Johnson: Absolutely.

José Cárdenas: And also about prevention. What kinds of things should people be doing to preempt strokes?

Darry Johnson: That's a great question. When I lecture about stroke, I tell me the best treatment for stroke is never to have one. Right off the bat, don't smoke. And if you smoke, quit. That may sound glib, but nicotine is a hard habit to break. A person has control over, is to quit smoking. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under tight control. Blood pressure. Exercise is important. That helps with weight control and blood pressure and blood sugar management. We can't stop the aging process. We haven't found a pill or way to stop getting older. But smoking, quit, never smoke to begin with, blood pressure and diabetes and weight control are all reasonable things to do.

José Cárdenas: We've had a number of pictures on the screen. One in a large group setting and talking individually to patients. Is that part of the outreach that Banner Boswell is making to educate?

Darry Johnson: I've been Stroke Director for well over a decade and give lectures about yearly to the community, and we also have a stroke check on a yearly basis where we invite the community to come, via email and press releases -- to come and talk about risk factors and if we here an abnormality in the neck, we can get them to ultrasound and if we see that the blood pressure is too high, we can get them to the primary doctor right away. We do it once a year at Banner Boswell.

José Cárdenas: And Banner Boswell piloted the stroke program.

Darry Johnson: Yes it did and it's been in force for about 10 years.

José Cárdenas: Final words on the program and the significance of this designation.

Darry Johnson: Well, we're proud, we've worked diligently to get this designation and we take stroke very, very seriously, when I started this business over 14 years ago, there wasn't a lot do than to give a person a aspirin. But now we have clot-busting drugs available and if we can get to a patient within three hours, sometimes longer than that. So it's an exciting time in my world to offer hope to patients under unfortunate circumstances.

José Cárdenas: Congratulations on the designation and thanks for sharing the information on "Horizonte."

Darry Johnson: Thank you.

Dr. Darry Johnson:Neurologist and medical director, Banner Boswell Medical Center's Stroke Program;

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