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August 12, 2009 > What You Learn Now Might Save Your Life

What You Learn Now Might Save Your Life

Free Seminar Focuses on Importance of Stroke Awareness

Most people know that if they experience chest pain or discomfort, they should call 9-1-1 immediately, since it could be a sign of a heart attack. What many people may not realize is the importance of stroke awareness.

A stroke, also known as a brain attack, occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. As a result, the brain does not receive vital blood and oxygen, and the affected brain tissue begins to die.

So who needs to worry about stroke?

"Anybody who has multiple risk factors, such as diabetes, hypertension, irregular heartbeat, a previous stroke and cigarette smoking is at risk for a stroke, and these patients need to be treated very aggressively," according to Dr. Ash Jain, medical director of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program.

On Tuesday, Aug. 25, from 1 to 3 p.m., Washington Hospital will host a free Health & Wellness seminar titled, "Raising Awareness About Stroke," to help inform community members about stroke.

Dr. Jain and Doug Van Houten, R.N., the program's clinical coordinator, will address need-to-know information about what causes stroke, state-of-the-art treatment options and ways to prevent stroke.

Stroke care saves lives

Stroke represents the leading cause of long-term disability and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Dr. Jain calls the potential consequences of stroke "worse than death" and encourages everyone in the community to be aware of stroke symptoms, as well as how to prevent the disease.

During his talk, Dr. Jain will also focus on acute treatment of stroke patients at Washington Hospital.

"Our goal is to treat strokes aggressively and return our patients to 100 percent functionality," Dr. Jain says. "Total recovery is ideal, but we work as hard as we can to achieve whatever degree of improvement is possible for each patient.

"Effective treatment involves early recognition, and because stroke involves blocking of arteries, we focus on a number of treatment options to open the vessels, including clot-busting drugs, clot-retrieving devices, stenting and balloons."

A team effort is what makes Washington Hospital's Stroke Program so effective, Dr. Jain says.

"A stroke program requires a great degree of coordination from many different areas inside and outside of the hospital," he explains. "EMS staff needs to be trained to identify potential stroke patients and bring them to the ER as quickly as possible. In the hospital, radiologists, neurologists, surgeons and interventionalists all need to be on the same page to treat stroke quickly and efficiently.

"One of the best things we have at Washington Hospital is the 24/7 stroke nurse, because a patient's care is coordinated as soon as he or she enters the ER, and all services are in sync. That is a major advantage of the stroke program at Washington Hospital."

An ounce of prevention...worth a pound of cure

While stroke treatment methods have advanced over the years, it's always better to prevent stroke than to roll the dice and risk death or long-term disability, according to Doug Van Houten, R.N.

A good place to start when it comes to stroke prevention is keeping high blood pressure in check, he says. Van Houten will talk about how maintaining a healthy blood pressure can help in preventing stroke and a number of other chronic health conditions.

"If you're on blood pressure medication, you need to keep taking your medication," he says. "But I want people to take responsibility for their own blood pressure management. There are all kinds of things they can do on their own to control blood pressure."

The first, he says, is finding and reaching an ideal weight by first determining your current body mass index (BMI) and then making sure you get it within the "normal" range as established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"BMI is a scientific formula that allows you to determine what your weight should be," according to Van Houten. "If you're overweight, then every two pounds you drop your weight, you will drop your blood pressure by one point on average."

The second step to controlling blood pressure is adopting the right diet. During his talk, Van Houten will discuss the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) diet and how it can help lower blood pressure.

Van Houten will also talk about how exercise can contribute to lowering blood pressure.

"With stroke, it's all about the blood vessels, and high blood pressure - in the case of hemorrhagic stroke - wears out the blood vessels so that the central arteries in the brain burst open and cause bleeding. In the case of ischemic stroke, high blood pressure contributes to the damage and wear to blood vessels.
"To give an analogy, chronic high blood pressure is like driving in first gear all the time and revving up the engine until you wear out your transmission. If you have rubber hoses and the pressure is always high, you wear down the vessel until it bursts."

To avoid stroke: Educate yourself

To learn more about stroke, including the signs that you should call 9-1-1 immediately, join Dr. Jain and Doug Van Houten on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 1 to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A and B, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

To register for the seminar, call (800) 963-7070.

For more information about stroke care at Washington Hospital, visit, click on "Services & Programs," select "Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute" and choose "Stroke Program" from the drop-down menu.

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