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Washington Hospital Stroke Screening Can Help You Reduce Your Risk

March 17, 2010

Don’t Let a Stroke Change Your Life

A stroke can change your life in ways you never dreamed. It can take away your ability to walk, talk, perform everyday tasks, and participate in the things you love. While everyone has some risk for stroke, there are ways to reduce your chances.

Stroke is actually a "brain attack" that can occur when the arteries become blocked, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This lack of oxygen and blood can kill brain cells. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Stroke Association.

"These blockages are usually caused by the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries called atherosclerosis," said Dr. Ash Jain, cardiovascular specialist and Washington Hospital Stroke Program Medical Director. "This happens over time. By slowing this process, we can prevent many strokes."

It’s important to know your risk. Thanks to generous support from Fremont Bank and Health Diagnostics, Washington Hospital will conduct Stroke Awareness Day screenings on Saturday, March 27, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. Registration is required by calling (800) 963-7070.

The screenings include tests to measure blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and blockages in the carotid artery, which is located in the neck and supplies blood and oxygen to the brain. Dr. Jain will be facilitating the screenings.

"You could be harboring the disease and not know it," Jain said. "The tests can help us determine your risk for stroke."

Risk Factors

While there are some risk factors you can’t change like age and heredity, we mostly raise our risk for stroke through lifestyle choices. According to Jain, you are much more likely to suffer a stroke if you are overweight, smoke cigarettes, eat a diet high in fat and salt, and lead a sedentary life. These can increase risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

A new report by the Institute of Medicine found that nearly one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure and that number is rising. High blood pressure damages the arteries, causing them to become hardened and less elastic, which restricts their ability to move blood and oxygen through them. This process occurs as people age, but it is accelerated by high blood pressure.

"High blood pressure is a silent killer," Jain said. "You don’t notice the symptoms. It needs to be aggressively treated through diet and medication."

High blood cholesterol is also a major problem because it contributes to atherosclerosis, he added. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can build up in the arteries, making it difficult for enough blood and oxygen to flow.

Diabetes more than doubles your risk for stroke, according to Jain. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and are overweight, compounding their risk.

Lifestyle Changes

"You can control and even reduce these risk factors through lifestyle changes," Jain said. "Sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough. It’s also important to take any medications prescribed by your doctor to control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar."

Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a diet low in fat and salt and high in lean proteins, fruits and vegetables goes a long way toward preventing stroke. If you smoke, you need to quit.

"You can greatly reduce your chances of having a stroke if you can get your risk factors under control," Jain said. "Getting screened is the first step toward preventing stroke. These risk factors are very dangerous, so you need to know if you have them."

To find out if you are at risk for stroke, register for the screenings by calling (800) 963-7070. Please Note: No walk-ins. Registration is required.

Washington Hospital Offers Stroke Education Each Month

Stroke Support Group: The stroke support group provides free social and emotional support for stroke survivors and their caregivers. Monthly meetings are intended to help educate and provide important resources and referrals for services related to post stroke care. Next Class: Tuesday, March 23.

Time: 1 to 2:30 p.m. Location: 2500 Mowry Avenue, Washington West, Neuroscience Conference Room (2nd floor). Call (510) 745-6525 for more information.

Community Stroke Education Series: The upcoming stroked education series lecture will focus on acute management of stroke, chronic care and stroke rehabilitation.
Next Class: Tuesday, April 6
Time: 6 to 8 p.m. Location: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D., Auditorium
For more information about Washington Hospital’s Stroke Program, please call (510) 745-6525 or visit www.whhs.com/stroke

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