Get Fit with 6: Stroke survivor shares his story to help others

Heart disease and strokes kill thousands of men and women in North Carolina every year.
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 7:29 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 10:12 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Heart disease and stroke kill thousands of men and women in North Carolina every year.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing one in four deaths each year.

Nick Kentrolis knows the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. For years he was a competitive bodybuilder, gym owner and personal trainer. Two years ago, he suffered a stroke and wasn’t sure he would survive, let alone be able to talk about it.

“It was like an explosion that erupted in my head. It actually shoved my brain all the way to the left side of my head. The whole left side of my body was completely dead for five days,” said Kentrolis.

Now back in the gym, he is continuing his rehab and improving his strength, but with a different mindset and a new-found focus on stroke victims.

“Just keep being persistent and keep trying. If your hand is frozen up keep holding it open you know and holding it open,” he said.

For years Kentrolis sang the national anthem at the Cape Fear Heart Walk and has helped promote the mission of the American Heart Association.

“I always felt like I feel now about it that I really appreciate and understand what they do for people. But now that it’s happened to me, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, this, this organization has to stay and do well and continue to thrive like it has.’”

It’s a story Ashley Miller, director of the Cape Fear Chapter of the American Heart Association, has heard many times.

“I see it every day in our community on Facebook, meeting people and telling stories, you don’t think it will ever happen to you, you know, the folks that have cardiovascular disease, and then strokes, you just never know. So a lot of people work on their health, that’s something else that we promote, and something that I want our community to know that cardiovascular disease can be preventable,” said Miller.

The other important message: Kentrolis led an active, healthy life and still suffered a stroke. He survived because his wife knew the signs and got help right away.

“We have the acronym FAST. So we would love for people to know the signs of a stroke, facial drooping arm weakness, speech, and T is for time, you have about 90 minutes to call, you know, to get to 911 call and go get the help you know, your body, you know, when you’re not feeling well, and you know, when you need to reach out for help,” said Miller.

You can help the American Heart Association continue to educate our community on the importance of heart health. The Cape Fear Heart Ball is Saturday, February 25 at 6 p.m. at the Country Club of Landfall. Those interested in attending can click here to buy tickets.