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April 28, 2011

DHEC urges healthy habits to reduce risk for stroke and hypertension

COLUMBIA, S.C. – May is American Stroke Month and High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control urges South Carolinians to reduce risk of stroke and hypertension, and recognize the warning signs of stroke.

"South Carolina has the eighth highest stroke death rate in the nation, which is an improvement from years of having been number one or two in the nation," said Joy Brooks, director of DHEC's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division. "You can reduce your risk of stroke by controlling your hypertension, reducing salt intake, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting your alcohol."

Brooks said recently released dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognize that for a large percentage of the population, lowering sodium has a significant effect on blood pressure.

"The new guidelines call for 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. That's about a teaspoon of salt," Brooks said. "Certain groups at risk for high blood pressure, including African Americans, individuals with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease and individuals 51 and older, respond even more dramatically to sodium reduction. The guideline for these groups is no more than 1,500 milligrams a day."

According to Brooks, the USDA recommendation of 1,500 milligrams per day applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children and the majority of adults.

Brooks advises calling 9-1-1 immediately if any of the following five stroke signs suddenly occur - even if the symptoms subside or go away:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

For more information, visit DHEC's website at:


Note to reporters and editors: DHEC works with community partners and health care systems to improve the cardiovascular health and quality of life of South Carolinians through the prevention, detection and treatment of risk factors; early identification and treatment of cardiovascular diseases; and prevention of recurrent cardiovascular events.

For more information:
Betsy Crick – (803) 545-4496
Email –
Adam Myrick – (803) 898-3884
Email –