On World Stroke Day, Erie, PA local survivor Dr. Rebecca Wise shares her survivor story while Dr. Trevor Phinney of UPMC Hamot offers wellness tips

ERIE PA, October 29, 2019 — October 29 is World Stroke Day and the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, which is the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, provides five tips to help Erie residents to feel healthier and avoid one of the most common causes of disability and death.

Stroke is often thought of as something that happens to older people, but more people under 50 are having strokes, due to increased risky behaviors, such as smoking and untreated high blood pressure.

Strokes don’t discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at any age – and about one in four people worldwide will have one in their lifetime. In Erie, Pennsylvania six percent of adults ages 35 and above reported having a stroke according to the Erie County Department of Health in 2017, which is approximately 12,000 individuals. The good news? Up to 80 percent of first strokes may be prevented.

“Healthy habits can protect and improve brain function and lower your stroke risk. These simple suggestions are great for everyone to follow, even if you don’t think you’re likely to have a stroke,” says Dr. Trevor Phinney , Neurohospitalist at the UPMC Hamot Comprehensive Stroke Center and American Stroke Association volunteer expert. “While many adults don’t think they are at risk for stroke or reduced brain function, the reality is that nearly half of all adults in America have high blood pressure and untreated high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of stroke and also causes up to 60 percent of dementia.”

One Erie resident who is dedicated to preventing stroke is Rebecca Miller Wise, MEd, PharmD, BCGP, LECOM School of Pharmacy and stroke survivor. “I was at work on May 9, 2017, and after that I don’t remember anything for two weeks. I was told that I fell out of my desk chair and was transported to the local community hospital – luckily it is a stroke center. The doctor knew immediately because I had FAST symptoms (all except facial dropping). I was administered TPA within 30 minutes many symptoms reversed immediately.”

With a lot of hard work in rehab, Rebecca is now 100% recovered.

“We discovered it was due to a congenital atrial septal defect in my heart which I had repaired with a Gore Cardioform device on May 10, 2019,” Wise said.

Here are five tips to reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness as you age:

  • Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. Get your blood pressure into a healthy range (under 130/80). High blood pressure is the no. 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage it.
  • Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure over time, which can help reduce your stroke risk. Some fruits and vegetables are especially rich in vitamins and minerals that improve brain function and heart health – try mangoes, avocados and blueberries.
  • Rest up. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night can improve brain function both today and long-term. Make it happen with a soothing bedtime routine and avoid screen time before bed. Sleep-related breathing issues may increase stroke risk, so seek treatment right away if you suspect sleep apnea or a similar problem.
  • Meditate. Emerging science shows that practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may significantly reduce blood pressure and may improve blood flow to the brain. A quick way to be mindful anytime is to pause, notice your breath and take in little details in your surroundings.
  • Take a walk. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. For clear health benefits, adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of those activities). In addition, two days per week of moderate- to- high intensity muscle strengthening activity is recommended.

Education about F.A.S.T is part of the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative. The acronym F.A.S.T. stands for:

  • Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”
  • Time to Call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately. (Tip: Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.)

For more information, visit www.Stroke.org/WorldStrokeDay or email G.R.Klofft@heart.org.



About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @AHAErie.


About the American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association officially launched in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit StrokeAssociation.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the Association’s science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.


For Media Inquiries:

Jackie Mangione, Regional Communications Director (mobile) 585.967.7749; (email) Jackie.Mangione@heart.org


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