The Marion Fire Department and Board of Health teamed up to promote stroke awareness in May with a day of exercise and education at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center.

The event focused on understanding stroke risk factors, prevention steps, and the importance of immediate treatment when a stroke occurs.

“It’s important to spread awareness of the risk factors associated with strokes and to promote healthy living to keep residents living at home,” said Lyle J. McKay, Emergency Medical Systems director for the town, about the reasons for holding the event.

McKay said one of the day’s goals was to teach the FAST system of stroke detection to people, a method that has helped create better medical response times and better outcomes for those who have strokes.

FAST, which stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time, is a test that can be done quickly by family members or friends when a stroke is suspected.

The first step is to check the person’s face by asking them to smile. Does one side of the face droop? Next is to ask the person to raise both arms and notice if one arm drifts downward? Then, as part of FAST, ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and notice if their speech is slurred or strange.

Finally, if any of these symptoms are seen, call 911 immediately and be prepared to tell responders when symptoms first appeared.

“What we’re trying to do here is encourage people to take (this information) back and share it with family and friends.” McKay said, referring to pamphlets and a refrigerator magnet detailing the FAST method.

According to the CDC, fast detection of strokes is important because patients who arrive at emergency rooms within three hours of their first symptoms often have less disability three months after a stroke than those who received delayed care.

In addition to awareness, the event promoted healthy living by encouraging participants to walk along a COA path. Older residents, emergency services personnel, and town officials walked the path on the chilly day. For each circuit completed, they were given a chip to enter a raffle for a Fitbit or heart-healthy cookbook.

While they walked, entertainer Dave Valerio blasted hit songs from the ‘80s like ‘Let’s Get Physical,’ ‘YMCA,’ and ‘What a Feeling’ from the movie Flashdance to get people moving.

Southcoast Health was also present to give free medical tests to people. A1C, cholesterol, and blood pressure tests are important to understanding a person’s stroke risk, said Jennifer Falland LPN, from Southcoast Health who was there with Tamara Silva, Community Outreach Specialist for the hospital group.

A1C tests provide a three month snapshot of blood sugar levels over that time period. The test is used to help diagnose prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes and to determine how well diabetes treatment is working.

“People aren’t getting tested when they should,” Falland added, recommending that these tests be done annually.