Delaware News

Stroke Prevention, TMC Event-Based Risk Factors

Tucson Medical Center’s free stroke prevention event is back in person Saturday for the first time in three years, with a free risk assessment clinic and medical professionals on hand to provide consultations.

In 2019, strokes accounted for approximately 1 in 19 deaths in the United States, with one person in the United States dying from a stroke every three and a half minutes, according to the American Heart Association. Considered separately from other types of cardiovascular disease, stroke was the 5th leading cause of death in the United States in 2019, causing 150,005 deaths.

Strokes can affect people of all ages and genders and TMC officials hope to raise awareness of the signs, as well as risk factors and how to control them. The event – the only one of its kind in the region – is open to the public, but pre-registration for a screening appointment window is required for the April 1 event.

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A stroke occurs as a result of a blockage in the blood supply to part of the brain or a burst blood vessel in the brain. Both cases cause damage to parts of the brain, with strokes potentially leading to lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or death.

Eighty percent of strokes are preventable if a person knows the risk factors, said Kinzi Hotchkis, TMC’s stroke coordinator.

โ€œOver the years, nationally, it has gone from the 3rd leading cause of death to the 5th,โ€ Hotchkiss said. “But at TMC, volumes are actually increasing, probably because of our community. People come here to retire.”

As one of the few comprehensive stroke centers in southern Arizona, TMC sees a high number of stroke patients because its facility is staffed with on-call neurologists, neurosurgeons, and neurointerventionists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, specially trained doctors perform minimally invasive surgery on the blood vessels that supply the brain and spinal cord.

“Patients can receive life-saving thrombolytics and thrombectomies any time of the day,” Hotchkiss said, referring to anti-clot medications and treatments. “We have dedicated stroke units. Nurses and providers are very knowledgeable about evidence-based best practices.”

Hotchkiss said the signs of a stroke can be remembered with the acronym BEFAST.

  • Balance Changes
  • Eye or vision changes
  • Facial sagging
  • Arm drift
  • Speech changes
  • Time-sensitive or terrible headache

“You want to call 911 immediately or go to the emergency room immediately,” Hotchkiss said. “And if it’s the worst headache of your life, it could be a stroke.”

Age is a common risk factor for strokes, but others include hypertension; atherosclerosis or an accumulation of fat and cholesterol on the walls of the arteries; and high cholesterol.

Free tests at the event include height, weight, and body mass index; blood pressure and oxygen saturation; blood sugar and cholesterol measurements; and electrocardiogram. For best results, eight hours of fasting before the appointment is recommended, but not required.

After participants complete their assessment test, they will meet with a doctor to review the results and decide if a follow-up visit with the person’s doctor is necessary.

โ€œThere will also be pharmacists there who can answer questions about medications, dietitians and additional resources. We try to make it as comprehensive as possible and give as many resources as possible,โ€ said Maya Luria, Director of TMC Community Partnerships and Outreach. “It’s a really good way to get the ball rolling and raise awareness.”

Consultations will also be available with diabetes educators and advance care planning experts.

“It’s a great way for us to be able to give back to our community and keep it healthy,” Luria said of the event.

The event, which has been taking place since 2012, has always been first-come, first-served, but vendors have selected up to 400 people at past events. Luria said the average was around 300 to 325 people, but TMC is hoping for a big response after three years away from its in-person format.

Topics for discussion at the event will include brain health and seniors’ health and wellness.

Telehealth has become more mainstream since the COVID-19 pandemic, and TMC’s new program is an example of this promising change. Video by Patty Machelor/Arizona Daily Star

Contact star reporter Caitlin Schmidt at 573-4191 or


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