May is Stroke Awareness Month; ‘Brain Attacks’

HARLINGEN — Free screenings for stroke, diabetes, blood pressure, pulse and body mass index will be held during a “Stroke Awareness Community Health Fair” this Saturday morning, May 21, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Harlingen at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen (on the first floor of the South Tower of the hospital, in the Woodward Conference Center).

The cholesterol, diabetes, and triglycerides screenings require fasting. This test is free for Men 35 years of age and older, and to women 20 years of age and older with cardiovascular risk factors, as per the US Preventive Service Task Force guidelines. For those designated to be lower risk, the price for this test is $20. There will also be free Hgb A1C testing, as well as free stroke education materials, a risk factor assessment, and a counseling station with healthcare providers.

The “Stroke Community Health Fair”, which will also include refreshments, is free and open to the public. Stroke is the nation’s fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability. In the Valley, many residents are at risk for stroke because of high rates of high blood pressure and diabetes.

Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen also presents “Dessert with the Doctor” on Tuesday, May 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the Woodward Conference Center. Endovascular Neurologist Dr. Ameer Hassan will speak on “Stroke along the border: treatments and trends,” discussing the high risk of stroke in the Rio Grande Valley. Dr. Wondwossen Tekle will be speaking on “Endovascular Intervention,” and techniques that can be used when more than four hours have passed since a stroke started. Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen is the only hospital in the area offering this endovascular option.

For more information or to register for either of these events, please call 1-866-608-2273. For more information about prevention and treatment for stroke, consult your physician. An online risk assessment for stroke is available at


On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every four minutes; and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year, according to the American Heart Association.

Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries leading to the brain and the arteries within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, and that part of the brain starts to die.

Learn the following warning signs of stroke and teach them to others – because with stroke, every second counts:

* Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body

* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

* Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Stroke is a medical emergency – call 911 immediately if you experience symptoms. Remember: when it comes to stroke, the sooner that treatment begins, the better the patient’s chances of surviving without disabilities.

At Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and Brownsville, a clot-busting medication called tPA is used when medically indicated to reverse strokes – but the medication must be given within three to four hours from the start of symptoms of a possible stroke. New endovascular treatment procedures which are now available at Valley Baptist-Harlingen provide Valley patients with a longer time window in which to survive strokes and hopefully minimize disabilities. However, the sooner that treatment is started, the more effective it will be in reducing the effects of stroke.

For more information on stroke, consult your physician and visit

About Valley Baptist Health System

Valley Baptist Health System is an 866-bed faith-based regional health system located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. It is focused on helping people achieve health care for life through compassionate service inspired by faith.

Valley Baptist extends many of its services beyond its facilities and into local communities, offering free screenings for the community, support groups and numerous educational opportunities. For more information, visit (and