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December 31, 2013 > Did Preventing Stroke Make Your List of New YearÕs Resolutions?

Did Preventing Stroke Make Your List of New YearÕs Resolutions?

Moderate Diet and 10 Minutes of Exercise a Day Can Go a Long Way

ItÕs New YearÕs Eve again, and for many of us, itÕs a time to take stock of our overall health and wellnessÑand to make those New YearÕs resolutions. According to Dr. Ash Jain, medical director of Washington HospitalÕs Stroke Program, learning about how to prevent stroke is one of the most important resolutions you can make.
ÒSteps you take today can have a significant impact on stroke risk, so much so that stroke can be prevented in up to 80 percent of cases,Ó Dr. Jain says.
On Tuesday, Jan. 7, community members are invited to attend a free Stroke Education Series seminar, ÒStroke Prevention and Other Disease Processes/Healthy LifestyleÑBe Smart and Avoid Stroke,Ó in order to better understand steps they can take to prevent stroke.
Make a resolution to prevent stroke
The challenge, according to Dr. Jain, is that stroke often happens suddenly with few, if any, warning signs. However, by managing health conditions that raise the risk for stroke, community members can drastically reduce their chances of stroke.
ÒUncontrolled hypertension and diabetes are examples of disease processes that can significantly increase a patientÕs overall risk for stroke,Ó Dr. Jain explains. ÒItÕs very important for community members to learn about these and other disease processesÑmainly because you cannot ÔfeelÕ things like if your blood pressure or blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high.Ó
If left unmanaged, these conditions can develop over years or decades with no outward signs, slowly eroding overall health and leaving people ripe for stroke, which, in 90 percent of cases, is caused when a blood clot travels to the brain and cuts off blood supply to affected areas of the brain.
ÒOver time, these disease processes cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain,Ó Dr. Jain explains. ÒAnd when blood vesselsÑmainly arteries and arteriolesÑare compromised, it sets the stage for stroke to occur.Ó
The first step toward stroke prevention is awareness, he says. The second step is finding out what aspects of your health need to be managed.
ÒOnce community members are aware of how these factors affect stroke risk, the only way to effectively diagnose and treat these disease processes is for them to visit their primary care physician, who can help in managing blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. By keeping these three risk factors under control, you can greatly reduce your risk of stroke.Ó
Another major risk factor for stroke, according to Dr. Jain, is an irregular heartbeat, also know as an arrhythmia. In fact, up to 10 percent to 15 percent of strokes are caused by an arrhythmia called atrial fibrillationÑwith another 10 percent attributable to paroxysmal (occasional) atrial fibrillation. Arrhythmias, whether they are chronic or occasional, must be diligently sought out and evaluated by a physicianÑotherwise, they can remain undiagnosed and, hence, not treated, Dr. Jain emphasizes.
To minimize overall stroke risk, Dr. Jain advises that:
* Fasting blood sugar is kept at less than 100.
* Blood pressure is kept at less than 140 (systolic) over 90 (diastolic).
* Total cholesterol is kept at less than 150.
* At-risk patients be evaluated for an irregular heartbeat.
ÒIf you donÕt know that youÕre at risk for stroke, itÕs hard to prevent it. I always recommend that community members visit their physician to identify and manage both lifestyle-related and medically manageable risk factors for stroke.Ó
Achieving a healthy lifestyle is easier than you might think
Think you have to go to the gym for two hours a day to be fit? Worried you have to starve yourself in the new year to achieve a healthy weight? Not so, according to Doug Van Houten, R.N., clinical coordinator of Washington HospitalÕs Stroke Program.
ÒSome people think you have to become a marathon runner to be fit, but evidence suggests otherwise,Ó he says. ÒI loved this article I read in The New York Times. It said that by doing 10 to 15 repetitions of floor exercisesÑlike jumping jacksÑwith 30-second breaks in between sets for a total of just 10 minutes, youÕve managed to maintain your fitness.Ó
The key to maintaining a healthy lifestyleÑparticularly during the cold, dark winter monthsÑdoesnÕt require hours at the gym. It just requires moderation and planning.
ÒWhen itÕs cold, raining, and dark, you can be inside and do some simple exercises for just 10 minutes to keep the process going,Ó he says. ÒThe truth is that there are alternatives to what you think of as full-blown healthy lifestyle.Ó
To get healthyÑand help prevent stroke through simple lifestyle changesÑVan Houten says itÕs important to plan.
ÒIÕm glad weÕll be talking about stroke prevention and healthy lifestyle at the beginning of the year because itÕs a good time to refocus. The real trick is to exercise some moderation in how you eat, plan your meals, and find any way you can to fit in extra exercise.Ó
By planning mealsÑrather than waiting until youÕre starving to think about foodÑitÕs easier to make smart choices, rather than reaching for a candy bar or bag of chips.
ÒYou donÕt have to be dramatic with your lifestyle changes to really have a good outcome. You just have to be consistent, use moderation, and find something that works for you.Ó
He offers these simple suggestions for fitting in a little more physical activity into your day:
* During lunch, plan for a walk with a friend.
* When youÕre shopping, park at the end of the parking lot.
* After dinner, take a quick walk in the neighborhood.
* When itÕs cold outside, plan for 10 minutes of rapid-fire floor exercises (jumping jacks, stepping up and down on a chair, jogging in place, etc.)
* Take the stairs when you can and avoid the elevator.
A healthier 2014
To learn more about how disease processes like diabetes and hypertension impact stroke risk, as well as how to make healthy lifestyle changes, attend the upcoming Free Stroke Education Series seminar focusing on prevention. The class will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7, in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.
To register, call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070 or visit

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