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March 18, 2009 > Are You at Risk for Stroke?

Are You at Risk for Stroke?

Washington Hospital Screening Can Help Prevent Life-Altering 'Brain Attack'

You could be at risk for stroke and you don't even know it. You may be going about your daily life, unaware that it could be drastically altered by stroke, the third leading cause of death in this country and the leading cause of disability among adults. The good news is many strokes can be prevented.

Stroke is a "brain attack" that can occur when the arteries become blocked, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. The lack of oxygen and blood can kill brain cells needed to walk, talk and breathe.

Blockages in the arteries can be caused by blood clots or by the gradual build up of plaque and other fatty deposits in the arteries, called atherosclerosis.

"In recent years, we have learned how important it is to aggressively manage atherosclerosis, which can cause stroke, heart disease and other serious health problems," said Dr. Ash Jain, a cardiovascular specialist at Washington Hospital who will be conducting Stroke Awareness Day screenings to help prevent stroke. "By slowing this process, we can prevent many strokes."

The free screenings will be held Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. Registration is required by calling (800) 963-7070.

The Stroke Awareness Day screenings include tests to measure blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and blockages in the carotid artery, which is located in the neck and supplies blood and oxygen to the brain.

"These screenings can help determine your risk for stroke," Jain said. "We can drastically reduce your chances of having a stroke if we can get your risk factors under control. For example, if the carotid screening shows even just a small amount of plaque buildup, we want to treat it now so we can slow the progression and possibly even reverse it."

Reducing Your Risk

There are some risk factors you can control and some you can't. While stroke can happen at any age, your risk for stroke increases over age 55 and continues to rise as you age. Stroke is more common in men than women. Your risk is greater if you have a parent, grandparent or sibling who has had a stroke. Race is also a factor. The risk for African Americans is twice that for Caucasians, and Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics also face a higher risk for stroke.

While you can't change these, there are certain lifestyle choices you can control. You are much more likely to suffer a stroke if you are overweight, smoke cigarettes, eat a diet high in fat and salt, and lead a sedentary life. These can lead to the following risk factors:

High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke. It damages the arteries, causing them to become hardened and less elastic, which restricts their ability to move blood and oxygen through them. This process occurs as people age, but it is accelerated by high blood pressure.

High blood cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to build up in the arteries, making it difficult for enough blood and oxygen to flow. High cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, a major cause of stroke.

Diabetes more than doubles your risk for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and are overweight, compounding the risk.

You can control these risk factors by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a proper diet, and regularly taking any medications prescribed by your doctor to control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. It is also important to avoid alcohol and tobacco.

If you smoke, quit. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes narrows the blood vessels and causes cholesterol deposits to form on the arterial walls, leading to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Quit-smoking information will be available at the Stroke Awareness Day screenings.

To find out if you are at risk for stroke, register for the screenings by calling (800) 963-7070.

Washington Hospital Offers Stroke Education Each Month

Stroke Support Group: The stroke support group provides free social and emotional support for stroke survivors and their caregivers. Monthly meetings are intended to help educate and provide important resources and referrals for services related to post stroke care. Next Class: Tuesday, March 24.
Time: 1 to 2:30 p.m. Location: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D., Auditorium, Room A

Community Stroke Education Series: The upcoming stroked education series lecture will focus on acute management of stroke, chronic care and stroke rehabilitation.
Next Class: Monday, April 6
Time: 12 to 2 p.m. Location: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D., Auditorium

For more information about Washington Hospital's Stroke Program, please call (510) 745-6525 or visit, click on the tab titled: "Services & Programs," select "Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute," and then click on "Stroke Program" from the drop down menu.

Special thanks to Fremont Bank for their generous support in helping to put together the Stroke Awareness Day screening event.

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