By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe County has the highest stroke (cerebrovascular) death rate in North Carolina – 1.8 times the state average, according to the 2010 Community Health Assessment.
“With the stroke rate being so high, it’s important that people get educated on risk factors and get screened,” said Heather Pachnar, administrative assistant – marketing for Vidant Edgecombe Hospital.
A stroke screening clinic held Wednesday at the Edgecombe County Human Services Building made people aware of their risk factors for a stroke and gave them healthy living strategies.
“Hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, age, family history ... they all play a role in it (stroke risk),” said Nikki Wooten, chronic diseases program assistant for the Edgecombe County Health Department. “We are high on the scale of lots of chronic illnesses and everybody can’t afford to go to the doctor,” she added, stressing the importance of the program’s free educational services and screenings.
“We can educate you on how to manage your diet, exercise, how to deal with having a chronic disease,” Wooten said. She was pleased with the community’s participation in the clinic.
“We had 30 scheduled and at this time, we’ve had about 15 walk in,” she said. That was at 10:30 a.m. and the clinic was scheduled to continue for another two hours.
Vidant Edgecombe Hospital staff and health department staff counseled clinic participants on nutrition, while East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine student volunteers ran tests to check participants’ blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
One screening participant, Queen Bullock of Tarboro, said she received “good pointers” on dieting and received advice that she needs to lower her cholesterol level.
She said she appreciated the free service because medical tests are “very expensive” and the screening clinic was not as complicated as she thought it would be.
“It was a simple test,” she said. “It’ll let you know what’s going on with your body.”
One of Bullock’s reasons for attending the screening is because she wants to prevent having another health problem like the one she experienced recently – diverticulosis, a condition that caused pockets to form in Bullock’s colon and ultimately led to her hospitalization for blood loss.
“If I had done my colonoscopy, I would know how to regulate my diet. I kept putting it off,” Bullock said.
“This is a wonderful service,” said Doris Carpenter, 84, of Tarboro. “I’m going to take advantage of everything I can to stay healthy.”
Carpenter said she is diabetic and her mother “died instantly of a heart attack,” so hearing from medical professionals about what she needs to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle was important to her. She said she liked the casual atmosphere of the clinic, as well.
“I’m more relaxed now than I am with my doctor, so I’m going to be asking more questions,” Carpenter said.
“I got some good information,” said Shellia Howell, also of Tarboro. Howell said she learned about the warning signs associated with a stroke, such as “the tingling and the dizziness.”
“Don’t just write it off. Be aware of it,” she said.
She also learned strategies from Derrick Haskins, health promotion coordinator for the health department, about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“I need to lose weight. I need to exercise,” she said. Haskins counseled patients at the screening clinic about ways to monitor their diet, such as an online “calorie counter” and ways to maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.
“Lifestyle factors play a huge role in the chronic disease process. Physical inactivity and high-sodium diets do play a big role,” Haskins explained.
Jean Wise, 78, of Tarboro, came to the clinic mainly to get her blood pressure and blood sugar levels checked, because diabetes runs in her family. She received a good report, and shared her healthy lifestyle techniques.
“I watch what I eat. I don’t eat a lot of sweet stuff,” Wise said. “I walk quite a bit. I try to walk two miles every day.”