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February 28, 2012 > Are You Putting Off Your Health?

Are You Putting Off Your Health?

Free Stroke Series Takes a Comprehensive Look at Stroke and Your Risk

Stroke - a disease that often has no warning signs - can sneak up on you if you're not aware of your risk factors, which can include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. This is why Dr. Ash Jain, medical director of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program, advises people to take stroke seriously starting now.

"Stroke is a terrible disease that many people simply don't see coming," Dr. Jain says. "I like to catch people early - before they've suffered a stroke - through community education so that I never have to see them in the ER."

On Tuesday, March 6, Dr. Jain and Stroke Program Clinical Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N., will present a free overview of what stroke is, how to identify its signs and symptoms, how to determine your risk, and why it's so vitally important to call 9-1-1 if you suspect that you or a family member is having a stroke. The seminar will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.

To register, call (800) 963-7070 or visit

Don't let stroke take you by surprise

Dr. Jain says that all too often, community members are unaware of how high their risk is for stroke, and it comes as a complete surprise to them when they suffer a stroke. Ischemic strokes, which account for 90 percent of all stroke cases, occur when a blood clot travels to the brain and cuts off vital oxygen and nutrients that keep brain cells alive.

"Unfortunately, once brain cells die, there is no regenerating them," Dr. Jain points out. "What we want to do is treat the patient as fast as possible to prevent further damage. The sooner patients arrive in the hospital, the more effectively we can reopen the blood vessels and improve their outcomes."

"Still, it is up to patients and their families to learn more about stroke now, so that if it does happen, they don't delay in seeking immediate emergency medical attention."

So, what difference does it really make if you know the signs and symptoms of stroke? It just so happens that a little knowledge may save your life - or a loved one's.

Last year, Carol Mahmood's husband, Syed, had been reading an article in the Tri-City Voice newspaper - featuring Dr. Jain - about diabetes and heart disease. Mr. Mahmood noticed his wife, who had been sick for a couple of weeks with a bacterial respiratory infection and had been increasingly tired and weak, began experiencing episodes of mental confusion and impaired thinking.

He insisted that they go to the ER, at which point the medical team at Washington Hospital quickly diagnosed her with double pneumonia and bronchitis. Mr. Mahmood credited the article with saving his wife's life.

"What people read in the newspaper or learn during our community education series could very well end up saving their lives - or the life of someone they love," Dr. Jain says. "I encourage everyone to learn about stroke and other conditions - like diabetes - that impact their risk of stroke."

Stroke: a woman's concern

Once upon a time, it was thought that heart disease and stroke were predominantly a "man's" disease, and Doug Van Houten, R.N., the Stroke Program's clinical coordinator, wants to correct that misconception.

"Fifty percent of the people in this country are going to have more strokes than the other half, and that group is women," according to Van Houten. "I want women in the community to take note of this."

Certain racial demographics also are at higher risk of stroke, including African Americans and Asian Americans, he says.

"It's very well documented by the research that African Americans have a lot more strokes on average and suffer much worse outcomes," he says. "And just the other day, I think we had about 12 patients that came in with strokes, and eight of those patients were of Asian descent, with four of them having had really bad hemorrhagic strokes," which happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

Van Houten also says he recently gave a talk at a Buddhist temple in the community during which the audience members were shocked by some of the statistics he was citing.

"They said, 'Women have more strokes? I thought it was men!'" he recalls. "I think we tend to think that we're all right health-wise until something like stroke happens - but it doesn't need to happen for the most part. I want people to stand up and take action now so that they don't have a stroke later."

Another topic Van Houten often brings up during the Introduction to Stroke seminar is transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), also known as mini strokes.

"We occasionally get a patient with a TIA, which is sort of a 'warning stroke,'" he says. "Unfortunately, not enough people come into the ER after a TIA, and there's pretty good evidence that if you have one, you're about 10 times more likely to have a real stroke."

"TIAs, they can come and go so quickly. Then, patients say, 'I just couldn't talk for five minutes, so everything's fine, right?' No! If something like that happens, you could have a 99 percent blockage of your carotid artery. Look at the signs and come in to the ER, because there is so much testing we can do and medications we can put you on for risk factors."

Van Houten says it's hard for people who don't have health insurance, especially since mediations to control risk factors like high blood pressure are expensive. But he says it's worthwhile to attend free educational programs and screenings.

"There are things you can do to improve your stroke risk; don't be overwhelmed."

Get screened!

The free Stroke Awareness Day and Screening event at Washington Hospital has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.

During the event, you will learn whether you are at risk for stroke, and participants will receive stroke-related screenings, including a Doppler study of the neck to determine if there are any blockages that could cause stroke. Physicians will be available to interpret the screening results. To qualify, you must pre-register. No walk-ins. This event is sponsored by Fremont Bank.

To register, call (800) 963-7070.

Next generation of stroke care

The American Heart Association (AHA)/American Stroke Association (ASA) and The Joint Commission announced that beginning Feb. 1 certified Primary Stroke Centers like Washington Hospital's Stroke Program will be able to proudly display the designated seal and heart check mark to signify that they are providing the "next generation of stroke or heart failure care."

The enhanced alliance combines the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's scientific expertise with The Joint Commission's expertise in evaluating the quality and safety of health care organizations.

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