Mercy in a race to increase stroke awareness in Merced

National Stroke Awareness Month is coming up in May, and Mercy Medical Center is taking action to bring more awareness about strokes to Merced.

The center will host its traditional 5K Stroke Awareness Run-Walk and Health Fair on May 3, in conjunction with the hospital’s fifth anniversary. The 5K race is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. and the the Health Fair will run from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Lillian Sanchez, a community educator at Mercy Medical Center, said the run-walk is a fun way to engage and educate the community on the importance of identifying and preventing a stroke.

“The goal of organizing the 5K is to provide people with information on how to react and how to do it in a timely manner,” she said. Being aware of stroke warning signs and symptoms is key to reducing the possibility of long-term effects or even death.

Sanchez said it’s crucial that people act FAST, an acronym that is meant to make spotting stroke symptoms easier. Face-drooping. Arm weakness. Speech difficulty. Time to call 911. They are the signs and the step to take, she said.

According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of all strokes are preventable.

Although there are risk factors that cannot be changed, such as age and family history, there are others that are a result of a person’s lifestyle. High blood pressure, cigarette smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity can be controlled or treated, yet they remain as some of the leading causes for strokes.

Health screenings with information such as this will be available at the health fair. The event will also include children’s activities, asthma information, and exercise and dance demonstrations.

Recently, Mercy Medical Center implemented a stroke support group, which aims to provide resources for stroke patients and their families.

Beatriz Ramirez, accreditation and regulator compliant manager at Mercy Medical Center, said such program was long overdue in Merced.

“We didn’t have anything like this in this area,” she said. “After having a stroke, a lot of patients go through depression. They feel they’ve lost their independence because they now rely on others for so many things.

“Many stop taking care of themselves, which puts them at higher risk of having a stroke again. So having a group of people they can identify with is really beneficial for these patients.”

The stroke support group meets from 4 to 5:30 p.m. every second Thursday of the month on the third floor of the Mercy Medical Pavilion. The support group is free and open to all stroke patients and their families.

All those interested in registering for the 5K Stroke Awareness Run can do so on www.supportmercymerced.org. The cost is $20 per participant if registered by Tuesday and $25 afterward. All proceeds will go to the Mercy Medical Center Stroke Program.