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Cardiologist Samuel Ong discusses cardiac risk factors at Cumberland Medical Center’s Lunch and Learn program.

Cardiologist Samuel Ong discussed cardiac risk factors, and Neurologist Elias Abou-Zeid discussed stroke awareness during Cumberland Medical Center’s Lunch and Learn program.

The program featured a light, healthy lunch for participants who listened to presentations from the physicians.

“Did you know there is a lifetime risk for a cardiac event of 50%? That means half of us,” Ong said.

Events include heart attack, stroke, aneurysm and peripheral arterial disease.

“The good news is most heart diseases are preventable,” Ong said.

Cardiac risk factors include high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, smoking, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet — eating high saturated fat, processed food, high sugar — stress, obesity, family history of premature heart disease and age.

Ong said there are several steps individuals can take to help reduce the risk factors.

He said to eat less salt and sodium and to exercise more.

Ong said diet, exercise and medications such as statins like Lipitor, Crestor Ezetimibe and Zetia help combat high cholesterol.

He said it usually requires three different medications to control high blood pressure in the average person.

For diet, Ong said people need to eat less unsaturated fat and minimal refined foods.

“We need to eat more foods like fish, chicken without the skin — the skin is bad — nuts, avecado, and cook with olive oil … if there is one food that is good to eat, it is oatmeal,” Ong said.

He recommended more exercise such as walking.

“We need to develop lifelong good habits of eating and exercise and, if required, take your medicines,” Ong said.


Stroke awareness

Abou-Zeid said a stroke is a neurological deficit that can be a sudden onset, focal rather than global dysfunction and the cause is usually not due to trauma.

He said 795,000 people every year die from stroke. It’s the fourth-leading cause of death, and females have more strokes than males. He said African Americans have twice the risk of Caucasians suffering from a stroke.

Risk factors for stroke include smoking, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, excessive alcohol drinking, and age.

“The chances of stroke are double after the age of 55,” Abou-Zeid said.

He said transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is a temporary neurological deficit that resolves completely without permanent damage. Some can be as short as two minutes.

A stroke leaves permanent damage, or a scar on the brain.

He said it’s important to know the symptoms of a stroke and to respond quickly and get to the emergency room. To remember the symptoms — BE FAST!

Balance — sudden loss of balance.

Eyes — sudden loss of vision in both eyes.

Face — does the face look uneven?

Arms — does one arm drift down? Ask them to raise both arms.

Speech — does their speech sound strange? Ask them to repeat a phrase.

Time — Time is brain. Every second, brain cells die.

He said to call 911 and get to the nearest hospital; do not take an aspirin at home. Get a CT scan to determine the type of stroke and get a full workup including an echocardiogram/EKG TEE and bloodwork.

Immediate treatment could include a mechanical thrombectomy.

Longer term treatment of stroke could include aspirin versus medications of Plavix or Coumadin and cholesterol medications to keep LDL cholesterol lower than 70.

Other treatments could include carotid artery surgery, physical therapy and speech therapy. He said improvement continues up to a year after the stroke.

Preventative measures are to treat your blood pressure if high. A perfect blood pressure reading is 120/80.

Additional preventatives include quitting smoking, control diabetes and blood sugar, control cholesterol and treat sleep apnea.

Abou-Zeid said the Advanced Primary Stroke Center at CMC offers a full range of treatment and recovery after a stroke. He again emphasized to know the signs of a stroke and to BE FAST and get to the hospital.

The next Lunch and Learn program at CMC will feature Dr. Darren Barton of Cumberland Orthopedics who will present Advances in Arthritis Treatment Thursday, March 19, at noon in the CMC conference center on the second floor. The program includes a free lunch for those who RSVP before March 16. For more information, or to RSVP, call 931-459-4262.

Gary Nelson may be reached at