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Become a Stroke Expert for Your Family

October 26, 2010

Free Stroke Series Begins Again with Introduction to Stroke

There are many good reasons to become an expert on stroke, also known as a “brain attack,” a serious condition that is caused when a clot or a bleed cuts off vital blood supply to the brain.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, Washington Hospital’s Stroke Program will hold the introductory seminar of its free monthly Stroke Education Series, Introduction – Stroke/Risk Factors for Stroke.

Knowing your risk
For many people, knowledge and awareness of stroke—the third leading cause of death in the United States—is minimal, according to Washington Hospital Stroke Program Medical Director Ash Jain, M.D.

“Often people don’t know about strokes at all; their knowledge is near zero,” Dr. Jain says. “Most of the audience during the education series is made up of stroke victims or family members, but if members of the community have risk factors, then they are at risk for stroke and they should know about it.”

Fortunately, treatment continues to evolve, Dr. Jain says.

“Management of stroke has become more aggressive and results are improving on daily basis,” he points out. “Treatment has changed over last few years, and patients have an important role to play since they must seek care early on in order for management to be effective. The earlier they seek help, the better the outcomes.”

“There is a window of up to eight hours that you can successfully manage strokes, though in most of the hospital the window is up to four and half hours. Beyond four and a half hours, you have to go into the brain and that requires specialized expertise and equipment that we employ in the Stroke Program.”

Regardless of the treatment window for stroke, Dr. Jain says prevention is always preferable.

“Stroke is the most disabling disease out there,” he says. “Life after stroke is terrible, so if we can prevent it, that is the ideal outcome. If a member of the community does have a stroke, we want them to get to the hospital as fast as possible.”

Among the risk factors that Dr. Jain will discuss are:
High blood pressure
Diabetes
High cholesterol
Blockages in the neck arteries
Irregular heart beat

For those that have already had a stroke, managing risk factors is doubly important because having a stroke greatly increasing the chances of subsequent strokes, Dr. Jain emphasizes.

“Members of the community need to know what stroke is, understand its symptoms, know how to prevent it,” Dr. Jain says. “Most importantly, they need to know to seek help as soon as possible by calling 9-1-1.”

Become a stroke expert

With the series starting over again, Doug Van Houten, R.N., clinical coordinator of the Stroke Program, says this is a great time to become your family’s stroke expert.

“I want to inspire people to get all the information starting from the beginning of the series,” Van Houten says. “This is a good time to start—you don’t want to start in a semester course three weeks into the class. We’re going to go over the basics. An awful number of people don’t even know what part of the body a stroke affects. We’ll talk about what’s happening when you have a stroke, how to detect it, then we’ll go on and talk about some of the treatments. Finally we finish up talking a little about prevention.

“The fact is that stroke is 80 percent preventable and it’s the leading cause of long-term disability. I want that irony to hit home with community members.”

On the first Tuesday of each month stroke experts including Dr. Jain and Van Houten provide two hours of lectures on different aspects of stroke identification, prevention and management.

“Those who attend all four monthly presentations will become ‘community experts’ with a total of eight hours of stroke education,” Van Houten says.

Becoming an expert when it comes to stroke can aid in quick identification of stroke symptoms so that patients can be transported as fast as possible to the emergency room, preferably to a designated primary stroke center like Washington Hospital.
Just like a heart attack, effective treatment of stroke depends on how fast patients receive treatment.

“An informal study by an East Coast stroke neurologist over a one-year period found that only one out of 600 people admitted for acute stroke was able to initiate a 9-1-1 call to seek emergency attention for their acute stroke,” Van Houten says. “So, knowledgeable family members play a vital role in helping to prevent the death and disability of their loved ones. Learning what stroke is, how to detect it and how to respond is equivalent to knowing CPR when someone has a cardiac arrest.”

Van Houten says this seminar is a great primer for the rest of the series, which focuses on:

Acute management of stroke and stroke rehabilitation and chronic care
Stroke prevention and other disease processes and stroke prevention/healthy lifestyle
Life after stroke and future in diagnosis and management

To take the first step toward becoming a community expert on stroke—able to identify signs of stroke and know when to call 9-1-1—join Dr. Jain and Van Houten on Tuesday, Nov. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located across the street from the main hospital at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

To register, visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.