You are sitting at home, when, all of a sudden, you can't feel your arm, your head starts to pound and your vision starts to blur.

If this starts to happen, you might be experiencing what hundreds of thousands experience each year; you might be having a stroke.

Most of the time strokes – also referred to as brain attacks – can be prevented, according to the National Stroke Association.

Raising awareness to help prevent people from having strokes is one topic that will be discussed by Dr. James Dillon and Dr. Weems Pennington at the Aiken Regional Medical Centers' Advances in Stroke Treatment seminar on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Dillon, a neurosurgeon, will focus on warning signs of when someone might be experiencing a stroke and how important it is to get immediate medical help.

“Timing is very critical,” he said.

Pennington, a cardiologist, will talk about what happens when a person gets to the hospital, namely after the ideal time – three to 4 hours after the incident, he said.

In general, a stroke strikes when a person's blood flow to the brain's cells is intercepted, according to Aiken Regional's website. Two ways this can happen are when an artery is blocked so the blood can't reach the brain's cells or when an artery is ruptured and, therefore, bleeds out in the brain.

These methods cut off the oxygen supply to the brain, killing the brain's cells.

When those brain cells die, the abilities tied with them are lost, according to the National Stroke Association. This is why movement, sight, feeling and speech are all affected by having a stroke.

There are two main types of stroke: the ischemic stroke and the hemorrhagic stroke.

An ischemic stroke, the most common form, is caused by blood clots clogging up the arteries and, in turn, cutting off blood flow, according to Aiken Regional.

When a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures, the hemorrhagic stroke occurs, according to the National Stroke Association.

Other stroke symptoms include sudden numbness in the face or leg, mainly on one side of the body, confusion or difficulty understanding and trouble speaking or walking.

As Dillon will stress on Thursday, when one is undergoing a stroke attack, getting the person to the hospital as quickly as possible is key.

The patient might receive thrombolytic drugs to dissolve the clots that are blocking the blood flow, Dillon said.

Certain procedures can be administered, however, timing can affect which type is carried out, Pennington said.

For example, the tissue plasminogen activator is usually given within three to 4 hours after a patient has experienced the stroke.

If the patient comes in after that time frame, a tissue plasminogen activator can be administered but in a different way, Pennington said.

Instead of using an IV to dissolve the blood clot, doctors like Pennington send a thin tube, or catheter, to the site of the blocked blood vessel in the brain. In other cases, they might try to remove the clot itself, according to the National Stroke Association.

ARMC has a staff of emergency physicians and nurses, interventional cardiologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons, radiologic technologists and registered cardiovascular invasive technologists to help treat stroke emergencies every day of the week, according to the hospital website.

Not smoking, lowering your cholesterol, controlling your weight, having a healthy diet and visiting your doctor regularly are all ways to prevent having a stroke.

Thursday's seminar will be held at Town Creek Baptist Church with a light dinner included. Registration is required. For more information, call 800-882-7445.

For more information on strokes, visit or

Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and designs pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University.