Southerners likely victims in stroke study - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Southerners likely victims in stroke study

February 21, 2003


Albany-  On Friday afternoon, physical therapy assistant, Kelly Thompson is helping stroke patient William Britt finish up his rehabilitation workout.

"That right hand has a little bit more control than it used to," Thompson said as Britt's shaking hand placed a blue plastic peg into a Styrofoam holder.

Next on the exercise list; a short game of catch with another therapy assistant.

"This is much better than it was on Wednesday," Thompson reassured him as he stumbled once for the multi-colored ball.

Britt, 81, is still recovering from a stroke he had three years ago. He comes to Phoebe Northwest for rehabilitation, mainly for the right side of his body. It's the part that suffered most from his stroke.

What Britt may not realize is how many Dougherty Countians actually died of stroke the same year.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention now has information on stroke deaths in every county in the country. Southerners and African-Americans die more from stroke than any other groups in America.

Dougherty County is in the worst 20 percent for stroke deaths in Georgia. Out of each 100,000 people here, about 176 people die from stroke each year. Nationwide, blacks are 40 percent more likely to die of stroke than whites.

The main reason strokes are common in the south simply comes down to lifestyle.

"The southern diet itself is high in fat, high in cholesterol," said Todd Braswell, Phoebe Putney's Emergency Center Director. "All of those are predisposed risks factors."

That's not the only problem. Many people that suffer strokes, don't recognize the signs and never get the medical treatment they need.

Symptoms of stroke can be as vague as a headache, or even feeling weak. More clear signs are numbness or tingling on one side of the body, a sudden inability to speak and even the loss of vision.

"Again, not like when you're having a heart attack," Braswell said. "When you have chest pain, you think of your heart."

Recognizing the signs of stroke and getting medical help are the keys to recovering. But the key to prevention comes through educating the public.

"The same way we've done for heart attacks, and I think we've done that across the nation," he said.

As for Britt, stroke did change his life forever.

"We'll, it took him from being a golfer to a non-golfer," said his wife Ruth.

But he'll keep working to stay healthy.

posted on Feb. 21 at 11:55 p.m. by branon.stewart@walb.com