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What You Can Do Right Now to Prevent Stroke

August 30, 2011

Free Seminar Provides Tools for Prevention, Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Stroke, also known as a “brain attack,” is a tricky condition for many reasons. Perhaps most important is the fact that many people don’t know exactly what a stroke is—or how deadly it can be.

There are different types of stroke. Ischemic strokes, which account for 85 percent of strokes, are caused by a blockage to a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into surrounding brain tissue. In both cases, the result can be devastating. Affected parts of the brain don’t receive oxygenated blood, which often leads to neurological impairment.

Ash Jain, M.D., Medical Director of Washington Hospital’s Stroke Program, says that making sure community members understand stroke—as well as the other disease processes that influence stroke risk—can go a long way toward improving outcomes.

Learn more

On Tuesday, September 6, from 6 to 8 p.m., Dr. Jain and Stroke Program Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N. will present a free seminar as part of the Community Stroke Education Series. The presentation, “Stroke Prevention & Other Disease Processes/Healthy Lifestyle – Be Smart & Avoid Stroke,” will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located inside the Washington West building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

Call (510) 745-6525 or visit www.whhs.com/stroke to register.

“More often than not, people don’t know about strokes at all,” Dr. Jain says. “The audience at the Free Stroke Education Series is usually stroke victims or their family members. However, members of the community who have conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol also should know about stroke.”

Other disease processes that impact stroke

People often think of stroke as an inevitable part of aging, which is a dangerous misconception, according to Dr. Jain. In fact, preventable diseases like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) build up over time, increasing the odds of suffering from stroke. These disease processes can be managed—or even avoided entirely—using tools like medication and lifestyle changes.

Disease processes Dr. Jain will discuss include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Blockages in the neck arteries

Since these disease processes can’t be “seen” with the naked eye and are rarely felt by the sufferer, it’s possible for people—particularly those who don’t visit a physician regularly—to ignore them for too long. According to Dr. Jain, if you have one or more of these disease processes, you could be putting yourself at risk for stroke well before old age.

“Stroke is not something you want to wait to learn about,” he says. “If you have any of the above diseases, then you are a risk for stroke, and you should attend these free talks so that you can prevent this life-changing disaster.”

The good news, Dr. Jain says, is that treatments for stroke continue to advance. Additionally, the community is fortunate that Washington Hospital’s Stroke Program is certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission in collaboration with the American Stroke Association.

“And now ours is a comprehensive program, which means we can perform the latest and greatest treatments available for the management of stroke,” he adds.

This certification signifies that the stroke services provided by Washington Hospital have the critical elements to achieve long-term success in improving outcomes by effectively meeting the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients.

However, despite this access to top-notch care, Dr. Jain says community members’ best tool in preventing stroke is to learn more.

“Come to the seminar. You could learn information that might save your life or someone else’s.”

Simple steps toward stroke prevention

These days everyone has a hectic schedule, and it’s easy to put off thinking about something like stroke prevention, according to Doug Van Houten, R.N., Stroke Program Coordinator at Washington Hospital.

But what if you could make simple changes that would significantly improve your overall health?

“People work hard, and they have busy lives and busy families,” Van Houten says. “You need to catch people as they think of something. If you happen to tell them, ‘Go check out My Life Check™ (mylifecheck.heart.org/),’ that’s a simple way of getting people interested in making healthy changes to their lifestyle.”

My Life Check was designed by the American Heart Association with the goal of improving health through public education on how best to live. The program’s Life’s Simple 7™ is a list of inexpensive steps to take—one at a time if you want—that can drastically improve health by preventing chronic diseases like stroke.

“We’re not only talking about heart health,” Van Houten says. “We’re talking about kidney health, preventing cancer and safeguarding your brain. These are pretty universal components. This is a way to learn how to be your own best advocate. Take charge by saying, ‘How am I doing?’ If you’re not doing as well as you would like, this is something to help you change that.”

Van Houten says the Internet is a great first step to finding valuable information about making healthy lifestyle changes, but he doesn’t want people to stop there.

“The Internet is a little sneak peek and it let’s you get started today,” he says. “But the stroke prevention and healthy lifestyle seminar next Tuesday will give you more inspiration and some better direction. There’s nothing like having a human being there to talk to in regards to helping you figure out how you’re going to make these changes happen. I can be your life coach in regards to your health.”

Van Houten will also be telling audience members about great programs available at the hospital and in the community.

“I’m also going to tell audience members about how they can get specialized diabetes care through the Washington Outpatient Diabetes Center, plus more about services offered by our dietitians. And I’ll also give them my phone number and my e-mail address so they can contact me directly.”

“Rather than treating stroke, I would so much rather prevent it and make an impact in the community that way. I always remind people that stroke is 80 percent preventable, but there’s a disconnect there because it’s still the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the No. 1 cause of long-term disability. We need to reach more people.”

 

 

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