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This Class Could Save Your Life - Or a Loved One's

October 30, 2012

Stroke Seminar Gives Valuable Primer on No. 1 Cause of Long-Term Disability

When you go to your primary care doctor, there's a limited amount of time. He or she might tell you to lower your sodium intake, or to sign up for a smoking cessation class if you smoke. But chances are the doctor isn't going to have an hour to discuss why controlling these risk factors is important.

Dr. Ash Jain, cardiologist and medical director of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program, does exactly that each month during the free Stroke Education Series. He is an expert in stroke care who recently presented research at the eighth international Stroke Congress held in Brazil.

Stroke Experts Share Their Knowledge

"We are always seeking to improve patients' outcomes, because stroke is the most devastating disease there is," Dr. Jain says. "Something people may not realize is that they play a critical role in stroke care. Timing is everything when it comes to treatment of stroke, and when community members recognize stroke, they are much more likely to take the appropriate action."

Next week, Dr. Jain and Stroke Program Clinical Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N., will begin the stroke series from the beginning with Introduction-Stroke/Risk Factors for Stroke.

"The beginning of the Stroke Education Series is very important, particularly for members of the community who don't fully understand what stroke is or may not be able to recognize its symptoms," Dr. Jain explains.

He points out that the Stroke Program relies on community members to get emergency medical attention immediately if they suspect stroke.

"We have a very efficient process for managing acute stroke, starting from the moment 9-1-1 is called, but in order for us to take full advantage of the tools at our disposal, community members must first recognize stroke," he says. "Getting to the ER if they suspect stroke can make the difference between minimal damage and long-term disability or death. This introduction to stroke seminar is an excellent means to learn the basics of stroke, including how to recognize it."

Methods for treating and diagnosing stroke are constantly evolving, and the Stroke Education Series is a good way to stay up-to-date on the latest advancements from experts in the field.

"I spend a great deal of time researching and implementing actions that will improve our patients' outcomes following stroke, but I also encourage community members to learn more about stroke before it happens, as it is a highly preventable disease," Dr. Jain says.

What You Don't Know Puts You at Risk

As the Stroke Program's clinical coordinator, Doug Van Houten talks to a lot of people in the community about stroke. He attends community events and health fairs and presents at organizations throughout the Tri-City area.

"What I've found is that not enough people know enough about stroke," he says. "At these events, we ask people, 'Can you tell me a sign and symptom of stroke?' and they say, 'Pain in the left arm? Shortness of breath?' They don't know the symptoms. And if a family member or friend doesn't seem to be in very much distress - just a little weakness in the arm or leg - then they might tell that person to take a nap. The reality is that brain cells are dying every minute they wait to call 9-1-1."

To emphasize his point, Van Houten cites a statistic from Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, which says that the average stroke patient with an acute large vessel stroke loses 1.9 million neurons each minute stroke goes untreated untreated. Compared with the normal rate of neuron loss in brain aging, the Stroke article says the ischemic brain ages 3.6 years each hour without treatment.

Losing 3.6 years of brainpower every hour? Nobody wants that.

"For most of us, we could give up half the muscle fibers in, say our arm, and we would still have a reasonable life - but if you give up half your brain cells, you are going to terribly disabled," he says.

Van Houten says his main focus during the upcoming seminar is to introduce people to a few simple tests that can predict with startling accuracy whether someone is having a stroke. He points out that learning the symptoms of stroke is like keeping bandages and first-aid ointment in the house.

"Knowing the symptoms of stroke is a tool to keep in your mental first aid kit," he says. "Know when to call 9-1-1, and don't have a family member take a nap if you suspect they are having a stroke. During the Stroke Education Series, we talk about how to identify stroke, what to do, as well as how to avoid it altogether. After attending the entire series, community members know a lot about stroke."

Stroke: Start at the Beginning

When a stroke happens, everyone in the family needs to be able to recognize the signs. Next week is your chance to start at the beginning and learn from the stroke experts at Washington Hospital. Introduction - Stroke/Risk Factors for Stroke will be held next Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, (Washington West building) located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

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