Stroke seminar offers hope of better health

Downey Patriot, September 26, 2013
More than 100 residents received free stroke prevention screenings Wednesday.


74-year-old Albert Nosal came to the Primary Stroke Prevention Screening at RioHondo Event Center Wednesday looking for hope. His blood pressure soaring out of control at188/98 and having already suffered four “mini-strokes”, Albert was looking for new ideas about how to get his life back.

He found plenty of great diet, exercise and lifestyle tips from Yaga Szlachcic, MD, a highly respected cardiologist, clinical leader and researcher from Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center who delivered a brilliant presentation on controlling an irregular heartbeat (known as atrial fibrillation or “a-fib”) and stroke prevention.

Albert was one of more than 100 Downey-area residents who marveled as Dr. Szlachcic explained the importance of modifying behaviors to help limit the risk of having a stroke. Like most of those in attendance, he learned a lot.

“I’ve been prescribed 14 different medications, some with disastrous side effects,” he said. After hearing Dr. Szlachchic, he said now has hope that he can work with his doctor to lower my blood pressure not only with drugs, but with diet, exercise and even meditating before going to sleep at night.

“She spoke at our level, and answered our questions in a way we could all understand,” Albert said. Her presentation was simply outstanding.”
The seminar was the fourth of five free Primary Stroke Prevention events in Downey that have provided free carotid artery, aortic abdominal aneurysm and blood pressure screenings for more than 850 people. These free screenings have been valued at more than $335,000. The seminars are sponsored by the RTH Stroke Foundation, Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, The Downey Patriot and the Rio Hondo Event Center.

Many lives have been saved because of these seminars, which USC’s Nerses Sanossian, MD, Director of the Roxanna Todd Hodges Comprehensive Stroke Clinic at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, called “the most successful Primary Stroke Prevention seminar series our nation has ever had.”

The final 2013 seminar will be held on Wednesday, November 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Rio Hondo Event Center. The speaker will be the world-renowned neurologist Helena Chui, MD, who is the Chair of Neurology of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. One of the world’s foremost researchers in Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. Chui will discuss her groundbeaking research and the relationship between Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia and stroke.

This free seminar is certain to be “sold out” very quickly,” said RTH Stroke Foundation President Deborah Massaglia. “Dr. Chui is a tremendous speaker, and in addition to hearing her presentation, attendees will also receive a complimentary blood pressure screening.”

Since high blood pressure is the number one cause of strokes, this screening is especially important,” she said. Reservations may be made online at or by phone at (888) 794-9466.

At Wednesday’s event, Dr. Szlachcic explained how many medications can cause irregular and/or accelerated heartbeats. “You can recognize a-fib with several common symptoms, including an abnormal feeling in the chest, a rapid and strong heartbeat or an irregular heartbeat. Other symptoms include dizziness, chest pain or shortness of breath, fainting or passing out or anxiety.

“Anxiety is a very important symptom, because people have panic attacks, sweaty palms and sometimes even a feeling of impending doom,” Dr. Szlachcic said. “If you have these symptoms or any time you feel that something isn’t right with your heart, you should contact your doctor.”

Of course, before a person’s health deteriorates to that level, there are many things that can be done to live healthier lifestyles beyond the normal caution to avoid smoking, Dr. Szlachcic said.

Event attendees Elsa Van Louiven and Shirley McConnell each said they planned to eat more fruits and vegetables. “It really opened my eayes to know that a-fib can cause a clot that travels to your brain and causes a stroke,” Shirley said. “I am going to eat a more healthy diet from now on.”
“I learned some things that will help me become healthier,” Elsa said. “It was well worth the trip to Rio Hondo, because what I learned could help save my life.”

“This was my second Stroke Prevention Seminar, and I picked up quite a bit more important information from this very helpful event,” said Tom Riddell.

One strategy Dr. Szlachcic discussed was “eating real food, not food products. This most often means eating from the sides of the market, not from the center aisles.” Another idea she spoke about was adding cinnamon to the diet. “Cinnamon has a positive effect, and cinnamon tea is especially effective. You simply make a cup of tea, put a cinnamon stick in the cup and wait for it to cool down. Then you remove the stick and you can use it several more times. The cinnamon adds a sweet taste, but doesn’t contain sugar.”

She also debunked some myths about the relative value of ginko, garlic and ginger. “Ginko does not improve memory, but it affects the blood in a negative way. Garlic can negatively affect how your blood thins, and in some cases, with certain medications, ginger can also have a negative affect on how your blood thins. Beware of the 3 Gs!”

Dr. Szlachic exhorted the audience to walk for at least a half hour at least five days a week. “Walking is the most healthy, natural and wonderful way to get the exercise your body needs to avoid a stroke. You can also swim or do Zumba, but the key is that you have to move your body to stay healthy.”

She also recommended meditation before going to bed at night, although she said, “the best time to meditate is when you need it. You can just sit down, relax, breathe deeply and count slowly from 1 to 10. You can find lots of techniques online, but I would suggest you keep it very simple as you begin.”

“Living a healthy lifestyle is the key,” Dr. Szlachcic said. “If you are also doing something that makes you feel fulfilled, you will be on the way to living well, and having a healthy, productive life where you will never have a stroke.”

WRITTEN BY : Greg Waskul, Contributor, Photo by Diane & Greg Waskul

Rancho Schedules Free Stroke Screenings

From the Downey Patriot, September 6, 2013
Stroke screenings and seminars scheduled for Sept. 25 and Nov. 6 by Rancho.


DOWNEY – Do you value your life enough to spend 90 minutes attending a free seminar where a world-renowned doctor will tell you how to improve your health and you will also receive a free blood pressure screening?

“If your answer is yes, you should sign up today for the last two free local Primary Stroke Prevention Seminars of the year on September 25 and November 6,” said RTH Stroke Foundation President and Downey native Deborah Massaglia. She emphasized that the three previous seminars held this year were sold out very quickly.

Several lives have been saved at the earlier seminars, and more than 130 attendees had life-threatening high blood pressure identified there. “High blood pressure is a silent killer and the largest contributor to strokes, and everyone should make sure they have their blood pressure under control,” Deborah said. “It’s important to remember that coming to learn about stroke and its causes is just as important as the screening, because a lot of heart disease and other conditions go undiagnosed until it’s too late.”

The seminars are sponsored by a community partnership that includes the RTH Stroke Foundation, Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, Rio Hondo Event Center and The Downey Patriot.
Dr. Nerses Sanossian, Director of the Roxanna Todd Hodges Comprehensive Stroke Clinic at USC said, “This is the most successful Primary Stroke Prevention seminar series our nation has ever had. I encourage everyone in the community to attend the next seminars and start working on a healthier life.”

To register for the free seminars, call the RTH Stroke Foundation toll-free today at (888) 794-9466.
The next free seminar, which will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, September 25 at the Rio Hondo Event Center, will feature renowned Rancho cardiologist and Rancho Research Institute President Yaga Szlachcic, MD. She will deliver a 45-minute presentation about how Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib), the most common cardiac heart rhythm disorder, increases the risk of stroke and heart disease, especially when combined with high blood pressure.

“A-fib sometimes has no symptoms, but many individuals with an irregular heartbeat experience dizziness, weakness and fatigue,” she said.

Dr. Szlachcic, who also Chairs the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center Department of Medicine and the annual Rancho Women’s Health Conference, will also discuss many current vitamin myths and inform seminar participants about what vitamins are actually good for creating healthier lifestyles.

“These are things everyone should learn about so that they can feel better and increase their odds of having a long and healthy life,” Dr. Szlachcic said.

The year’s final seminar, which will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 6, will feature Helena Chui, MD, one of the world’s most accomplished neurologists and researchers. Dr. Chui is the Chair of Neurology at the USC Keck School of Medicine. She will speak about Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease and their relation to stroke.

“Many people don’t understand that vascular causes of cognitive impairment and stroke are preventable,” said Dr. Chui. “I will discuss what we can do to prevent vascular issues, which often have no obvious symptoms and occur side-by-side with Alzheimer’s.”

The common perception is that conditions such as A-fib, Vascular Dementia and high blood pressure occur only in older individuals, but that is not the case. “We just had a young man 22 years old come to one of our support groups because he had experienced a stroke during surgery,” Deborah said. “That’s why it’s important for adults of all ages to find out about health issues that can lead to a stroke and what everyone can do to improve their health at any age.”

“These life-saving seminars are very important for all of us to attend, because the best way for us to lead healthier lives is to become aware of our own health status and risk factors for stroke and other diseases that can destroy our health,” said community leader Beverly Mathis.

“Attending these seminars is the best 90 minutes you can spend to improve your health,” said Downey school board member Martha Sodetani. “They not only help us monitor our health, they provide us with information about how we can live a more healthy lifestyle so that we can avoid having a stroke or other debilitating condition.”

“We are making it possible for community members to register for both free seminars at the same time,” Deborah said. “Simply call us toll-free at (888) 794-9466 and we’ll do the rest. You can also get further information on these seminars at our web site at”

All attendees will also receive the RTH Stroke Foundation’s “Strides Against Stroke” newsletter free. “The newsletter is published six times each year and is filled with information you can use to live a healthier life,” Beverly said. “There are always great health tips and recipes for healthy eating. I especially enjoyed the delicious recipe for apple berry salsa with cinnamon chips in the latest issue.”

“Attending these seminars is so important for everyone’s health,” former Downey Mayor Meredith Perkins said. “I learned so much about how to stay healthy from the presentations and about my health status from the free screenings. I encourage you to register for these last two seminars of the year, because attending could save your life!”

Dr. Helena Chui is pictured.


Second annual Roxanna Todd Hodges lecture highlights stroke reduction

Nerses Sanossian, MD, assistant professor of neurology and co-director of the Roxanna Todd Hodges Comprehensive Stroke Clinic and TIA program, introduces 2013 Roxanna Todd Hodges lecturer Cheryl Bushnell, MD, MHS, associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. (Photo/Amy E. Hamaker)

The second annual Roxanna Todd Hodges Visiting Lectureship in Stroke Prevention and Education was awarded to Cheryl Bushnell, MD, MHS, associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Bushnell is director of the Wake Forest Baptist Stroke Center and a thought leader in issues regarding women’s health and stroke, and performing community interventions for reducing stroke risk.

Bushnell’s lecture, “21st Century Stroke Prevention: What will it look like?” was presented at Neurology Grand Rounds held the morning of Aug. 6 at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, part of the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

During the lecture, Bushnell focused on how stroke prevention might be accomplished in the near future if physicians focus on changing the way people behave to lower known risk factors, including hypertension, smoking, obesity, diabetes, alcohol and cardiac causes.

“We know from large studies that these are the main risk factors in population-attributable risk,” said Bushnell, “and that they can explain about 82 percent of stroke risk.

“We pretty much know what to do to lower the risk,” she continued. “If we could appropriately treat hypertension, for example, we could effectively reduce the risk of stroke in 360,000 people.”

Bushnell’s focus for stroke prevention was on adherence to prescribed medication and treatment routines, and how simply continuing to take their medicine can improve the risk for many patients. Factors that affect adherence can range from negative side effects to medication to the instructions given by and the accessibility of medical personnel.

Twenty-six guests attended a dinner in Bushnell’s honor the previous night at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The lectureship is part of an integrated vision to provide exceptional education in stroke prevention.

Nerses Sanossian, MD, assistant professor of neurology and co-director of the Roxanna Todd Hodges Comprehensive Stroke Clinic and TIA Program, introduced Bushnell before she began, and presented her with a plaque and a token of appreciation. “We are honored to have such a distinguished lecturer receive this award that supports the mission of the Roxanna Todd Hodges Foundation, to reduce the burden of stroke in Southern California through prevention and education,” he said.

University of Southern California – The Weekly August 30, 2013