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October 25, 2011 > Spread the Word About Stroke

Spread the Word About Stroke

Help Family and Friends Recognize and Prevent a Deadly Condition

When something is free, easy - and could help save lives, including your own, how can you afford to pass it up?

Next Tuesday, Nov. 1, members of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program invite community members to a comprehensive introduction to stroke and its risk factors during the hospital's free Community Stroke Education Series.

Awareness increases stroke survival

"Continuing advancements in acute management of stroke have saved many lives," according to Ash Jain, M.D., cardiologist and medical director of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program. "However, as long as there are people who remain unaware of what stroke is and the dangers it poses, we will continue to see people waiting too long to call 9-1-1 and seeking treatment later than we would like."

Fortunately, according to Dr. Jain, the treatment window for stroke - the third leading cause of death in the United States - has increased in recent years, particularly at certified Primary Stroke Centers like Washington Hospital.

"There is a window of up to eight hours that you can successfully manage strokes, though in most of the hospitals the window is limited to 4 hours," he explains. "Beyond that timeframe, you have to go into the brain, which requires specialized expertise and equipment that we employ at Washington Hospital, one of the few centers in the Bay Area with this capability."

A serous condition with serious risks

Despite advances in stroke care, Dr. Jain cautions against taking this condition lightly. During ischemic strokes, which represented 80 percent of all strokes, a clot impedes the blood flow to the brain, cutting off vital oxygen. Without this oxygen-rich blood, brain cells begin to die, and the impact can be devastating.

"In studies of ischemic stroke survivors, statistically significant percentages of patients with severe stroke-related deficits actually perceived stroke equal to or worse than death," according to Dr. Jain. "Stroke is the most disabling disease out there, so if we can prevent it, that is the ideal outcome."

Dr. Jain's recommendation is to learn more now in order to recognize symptoms of stroke and understand how risk factors, such as high blood pressure and smoking, can increase the chances of suffering a stroke.

What you don't know can hurt you

Would you be able to recognize the signs if a friend or family member had a stroke? According to Doug Van Houten, R.N., clinical coordinator for the Stroke Program at Washington Hospital, the truth is that most people wouldn't be able to.

"During the Fremont Central Park Summer Concert Series, we had a table set up, and I would ask people how they would know if somebody was having a stroke, and most people didn't know," Van Houten says. "Then I asked how to prevent a stroke, and most didn't know. There were even people who didn't know that strokes that occurred in the brain. I heard answers like kidney, lung and heart."

"It's so ironic that you've got a preventable condition sometimes considered worse than death that's the third leading killer in the United States, and people just don't know about it."

Spread the word

Van Houten, who runs the monthly Stroke Support Group at the hospital and goes to countless community events to teach people about stroke, says he's still dissatisfied with the number of people getting the message about how dangerous stroke is.

"I think most people know somebody who has had a stroke, somebody in the family or a friend," he says. "I think there is enough stroke out there that it's not too foreign."

What he wants to see is people in the community getting involved and helping make a difference in the fight against stroke.

"Public awareness campaigns have worked with heart attack," he says. "During the concert series I did hear people say they recognized the signs of heart attack - including pain in the chest going down left arm and heavy perspiration - as well as what to do about it. They said, 'Take two aspirin and call 9-1-1.' Many people knew that."

"I think we can achieve the same level of awareness for stroke if people get involved."

For the stroke seminar coming up next Tuesday, Van Houten encourages people to come with a friend - or attend the talk and then commit to teaching a friend or two about stroke, its symptoms, when to call 9-1-1, and how you know you're at risk.

Know stroke, prevent stroke

To get detailed information about the factors that put you at risk for stroke, as well as the warning signs you shouldn't ignore, make sure to attend the Introduction to Stroke/Risk Factors for Stroke seminar on Tuesday, Nov. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in the Washington West building.

For more information or to register, call (510) 745-6525 or visit

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