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  2002 Ap 01 Release.
  For Immediate Release.
  Bonnie Arkus 609-771-9600


Trenton, NJ - Each day the average heart beats (expands and contracts) 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) can result in an interruption of blood flow that can contribute to heart attack or stroke. Over 40 percent of all female deaths in America occur from cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke.

The death rate from CVD is substantially higher in black women than in white women and uncontrolled high blood pressure in African Americans is a major contributor. This is the story of one courageous African American woman who knows what it is like to suffer a stroke with paralysis, and how to recover. Meet Mrs. New Jersey 2002 Cynthia Ann Stephans, stroke survivor and spokeswoman for the Women's Heart Foundation's Stroke Awareness Campaign. Here is her story.

"Two years ago when I was five months pregnant with my fourth child, I developed high pressure and suffered a debilitating stroke. I couldn't talk, I couldn't walk and I was completely paralyzed on the right side of my body. I was hospitalized for five days and transferred to a rehabilitation center where I had to learn how to change a baby diaper and bath a baby with one hand. I had to practice carrying a baby using a life-like doll. The doctors had approached my husband about placing me in a nursing home, but I was determined to regain function and soon, I was doing exercises to strengthen my hand and arms. I progressed to walking just three days after being discharged home and by the seventh day, I had regained my speech.

"I am blessed. I have a healthy son and I have regained most of the use of my right side. I can once again take care of my family. For Stroke Awareness Month, I want to share with you my message for stroke survival:

  1. Learn the warning signs of stroke and seek immediate help if you experience any symptoms (loss of vision, slurred speech, numbness or weakness on one side and severe headache).
  2. Learn about TIA. Many people suffer mini-strokes or TIA's prior to suffering a major stroke. These can serve as warning signs to get help before a major stroke occurs.
  3. Know which hospital emergency rooms are best at treating stroke quickly. Proper diagnosis with a prompt CT scan to determine eligibility for thrombolytic (clot-buster) therapy is essential. If treatment is received during the first three hours following a stroke, it could mean the difference between full recovery and major disability or death.
  4. If ordered medicine to treat high blood pressure, take it as prescribed. Take an active role in your own health and wellness by working with your doctor to keep blood pressure under good control.
  5. Be positive. Look upon your situation as a new beginning. I never think of myself as being a disabled mom. The fact is I am now able to speak well, walk, change my baby's diapers and take good care of my family.
  6. Exercise daily for stress management and total fitness. I walk several miles every day and lift weights. It helps me mentally, physically and spiritually.
  7. Trust in God. I believe that no matter what you have to go through in life, there is always a solution. Pray to your Higher Being and know that everything will be all right with hard work, determination, attitude and personal style.

"Good health is waiting for you. Just think...if you are lucky, you may even wind up becoming a beauty queen -- in spite of life's challenges."


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1999-2000; updates: 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 Women's Heart Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited. The information contained in this Women's Heart Foundation (WHF) Web site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and WHF recommends consultation with your doctor or health care professional.