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March 26, 2008 > Healthy Ways To Prevent Stroke - Seminar Teaches Healthy Lifestyle and Steps to Prevent Stroke

Healthy Ways To Prevent Stroke - Seminar Teaches Healthy Lifestyle and Steps to Prevent Stroke

There are many things that you can do to help prevent a stroke. Eating healthy foods, participating in physical activities and getting your blood pressure checked on a regular basis are some activities that can help reduce your risk of stroke.
Many small decisions over the course of a day can add up to play a significant role in your risk of having a stroke and a healthy lifestyle is all about making choices, according to Washington Hospital's Stroke Program Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N.
"It's widely felt in the medical community that most strokes by far can be prevented if you control the risk factors," Van Houten says.
On Tuesday, April 1, Van Houten and Dr. Ravinder Kahlon, a Washington Hospital Medical Staff neurologist and psychiatrist, will present a free community seminar focusing on stroke prevention, disease processes that affect stroke and healthy lifestyle choices.
Knowing the risk factors
Stroke prevention, according to Van Houten, is not only attainable, but also a very realistic goal for those at risk - given they can identify their risk and take action to change it.
In determining a patient's likelihood of suffering a first or subsequent stroke, physicians and members of the hospital's Stroke Program look at a number of risk factors. Unfortunately, some factors - such as age, gender and genetic predisposition - cannot be altered. The good news is that others factors, particularly those associated with lifestyle, can be altered to greatly reduce a person's chances of suffering a stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, some of the risk factors that people can change include:
* High blood pressure
* Cigarette smoking
* Diabetes mellitus
* Carotid or other artery disease
* Atrial fibrillation
* Other heart disease
* Sickle cell disease
* High blood cholesterol
* Poor diet
* Physical inactivity and obesity
* Heavy alcohol use
"A lot of these risk factors are related to a person's lifestyle," Van Houten says. "For instance, the type of person who has a tendency to have high blood pressure often tends to be overweight, probably leads a sedentary lifestyle, and tends to be one who eat lots of fast food, which contains a lot of salt. These are all lifestyle issues associated with hypertension."
The silver lining, he says, is this: "By eating foods low in sodium, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and losing weight, you can take a huge step in reducing hypertension, which is a major risk factor for stroke. For every two pounds you can lose, you can drop one point in blood pressure."
How to make the change
If every person in the United States were to improve his or her lifestyle choices in all of the above categories, he adds, certain types of stroke could be virtually eliminated. But stroke remains a leading cause of death and the primary cause of permanent disability in this country. Why is this? According to Van Houten, it's all about a simple equation.
During the upcoming Stroke Education Series seminar, Van Houten will explain in further detail the factors he says play a role in stroke prevention: Knowledge + Motivation + Creativity = Change.
"Take these examples," Van Houten says. "Knowledge is when you recognize that excessive drinking and smoking can lead to stroke. Motivation occurs when you see someone suffering ill effects from this type of lifestyle. Finally, creativity comes in when you figure out a way to make the necessary changes for better health. At this point, you have all the necessary components for change."
Van Houten says that he and Dr. Kahlon aim to first give participants the knowledge. Next, they will offer insight necessary to motivate them to make changes. Finally, the presenters will offer concrete tips for getting creative.
"There are certainly alternatives to unhealthy lifestyle choices," Van Houten says. "The people who aren't making the changes are missing one of the components of the equation. I tell patients that sometimes you need to make hard choices, which may involve not socializing with people who smoke and drink routinely."
Dr. Kahlon's presentation will focus on what stroke is, how it happens, as well as medical methods of prevention, including medications. She also will discuss cholesterol and blood pressure's roles in stroke and how other conditions, such as peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and diabetes can increase the chances of having a stroke.

Get the facts about stroke
To learn more about stroke prevention and healthy lifestyle, join Dr. Ravinder Kahlon and Doug Van Houten, R.N., on April 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.
To find out more about Washington Hospital's Stroke Program, visit, click on "Services & Programs," select "Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute," and choose "Stroke Program" from the drop-down menu.

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