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Learn to Prevent A Stroke -- Attend Stroke 101

Do you know the symptoms of a stroke?

If you or a friend or family member "just doesn't feel right," do you know what questions to ask and what to do?

Most of us don't, and that's why Washington Hospital is offering a free educational program, Stroke 101, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7. The program, led by Washington Hospital cardiologist and Stroke Program Director Dr. Ash Jain, and Stroke Coordinator Douglas Van Houten, will be held in Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium #B at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont. To register for the free seminar, call (800) 963-7070 or visit

Stroke is the leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of long-term disability — and it is 80 percent preventable, according to Dr. Ash Jain, cardiologist and medical director of the Washington Hospital Stroke Program.

The goal of Stroke 101 is to educate people about what a stroke is, how to prevent it, how to detect a stroke when it happens and what to do when it occurs.

A stroke is damage to the brain that occurs when circulation to the brain is impaired, usually from a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel. "The degree of the patient's disability is determined by how big the stroke is and what part of the brain is affected," Dr. Jain explained.

Disability is defined as difficulty speaking and communicating, difficulty using one’s arms or legs due to paralysis, blindness, and/or difficulty swallowing, Dr. Jain added. "Stroke survivors often lose their independence and ability to live the same life they lived before the stroke."

The best way to detect a stroke is to "Think FAST." Look for the following signs:

  • Facial weakness — sometimes an asymmetrical smile or droop.
  • Arm weakness — one arm is weak and drifts down when the person is asked to hold his/her arms out.
  • Speech impairment — is the person able to speak? If so, are the words slurred or unclear?
  • Time — it is an emergency. Call 911 immediately.

“The good news is that stroke generally is preventable, but the bad news is that the risk factors for stroke can be hidden,” Van Houten said. These “hidden” factors include cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, along with smoking, using drugs and drinking alcohol to excess.

If you suspect a stroke, call 911 immediately. Treatment must begin within a short few hours from the onset of the stroke, Dr. Jain said. Brain damage occurs quickly: a person suffering a large stroke loses two million brain cells every minute, according to the American Stroke Association.

For stroke victims, the cutting-edge care at a certified Primary Stroke Center like that at Washington Hospital is critical to mitigating the damage from a stroke.

“Our primary goal is to treat stroke as quickly as possible once a patient reaches our Emergency Room, because time is everything when it comes to effective management of a stroke,” Dr. Jain said. “Even small delays can have heavy costs, and research has shown that outcomes are better when people can properly identify signs of stroke and seek help immediately.”

However, Van Houten added, the best treatment is preventative: deal with the risk factors in advance by watching your weight and diet, exercising, stopping smoking, drinking alcohol in very moderate amounts, scheduling regular medical checkups — all of these can help prevent a stroke.

And, if you have had a previous stroke or have a disease that is identified with stroke susceptibility — such as diabetes, heart and circulatory problems or high blood pressure — take active and aggressive steps to manage those diseases so that they don’t lead to a stroke sometime in your future.

“Make sure you see your doctor regularly for a complete check-up,” Dr. Jain said. And, he urged: “Be sure to be checked for irregular heart beats as that is a condition that causes one third of strokes and often doesn’t show up in regular exams.”