Health Watch: Stroke Awareness

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Colorado Springs ranks pretty high when it comes to the number of healthy people living here, compared to the rest of the United States. El Paso County has another medical factor to consider---an abnormally high number of white and African American women who've had strokes:

  • 86 out of every 100,000 white women in El Paso County have had a stroke.
  • 111 out of every 100,000 African American women in El Paso County have had a stroke.
  • 79 out of every 100,000 is the national average.

    A stroke happens when there's a sudden oxygen loss to a certain part of the brain. Brain cells start dying within minutes without oxygen. Stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden severe headache.
  • Feeling numb or weak
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Having problems walking

    Penrose-St. Francis Hospital just received a $450,000 grant to conduct a 3-year study to look at the problem. "Where are the strokes? What zip codes? Are people from out town when they come here? Because we have a lot of tourists---is it a factor that women don't recognize the symptoms?" says Chris Hildebrant with the Penrose Health Learning Center.

    The study will include free public screenings to help people spot the symptoms sooner. It'll teach women stroke risk reduction techniques for 10 weeks. Among those techniques---losing weight, proper diet and exercise changes. And it'll follow women with the high risk factors and document what's working to reduce them---and what's not. "If they don't work, we'll learn the interventions may not be the right kind of things people can tap into," says Hildebrant.

    Health experts also say the risk of a stroke increases as we get older. The majority of women who have strokes are between age 55 and 60. However, it still affects women in their 30's to 50's.

    Penrose-St. Francis kicks off the Stroke Awareness Project on Saturday, May 31st with free screenings and a seminar. It's from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bethel School of Nursing at 3955 Cragwood, near Austin Bluffs and Union. For more information, call 776-5555.

    Read more Health Watch stories here.