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Stroke: The Teachable Moment: November 28, 2011

Al Palmer suffered a stroke thirty years ago. He spent six months undergoing intensive therapy.

“I was totally paralyzed on the left side. I regained 95% of my movement back.”

It was his one and only stroke. To lower his chances of a second one, Al was forced to change his life.

“I was smoking the first time and then once you have the stroke you quit smoking. It’s a drastic change and there’s a lot of things that cause damage in your life and I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve only had one stroke and one is enough.”

About 25% of stroke victims will have another stroke within five years. But studies show following a set of established guidelines, aimed at prevention, can change the odds.

The best way to reach a stroke patient with education is before they leave the hospital. It’s what doctors call the ‘teachable moment’.

“The average length of stay is around four days. And in those four days the patient and the family are under observation, we’re working intensively to evaluate all of their problems. It becomes a teachable moment because we have the patient in front of us. And we would like to take advantage of the situation in that we can provide teaching, education, explanations, help with preventing, help with arranging outpatient follow up,” says Dr. Ross Levine, Director of Vascular Neurology for Lee Memorial Health System.

Studies show patients who are taught to manage their risk factors while they’re in the hospital greatly reduce their risk of a second stroke.

“Adherence to guidelines clearly show decrease death from stroke, decrease stroke recurrence, 80% reduction of recurrent stroke. Those are very huge numbers, huge numbers in terms of preventing recurrent stroke,” says Dr. Levine.

Taking advantage of the teachable moment may prevent stroke patients from coming back again.