Few realize stroke is a leading killer

Few realize stroke is a leading killer – third leading cause of death in the United States

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and the number one cause of adult disability. Two-thirds of strokes occur in people over age 65.

Yet only one percent of Americans in a recent survey named stroke as a leading cause of death, according to the National Stroke Association.

The Association notes that while “the good news” is advances in diagnosis and treatment of stroke, “the bad news” is that a “significant portion of physicians and other health care professionals still do not adequately educate patients and their families about stroke and its consequences.”

To help correct this knowledge gap the association has released “Stroke: Reducing Your Risk,” a 16-page booklet designed to help people identify warning signs of impending stroke and lower risk factors involved. The booklet also briefly examines medical and surgical interventions to prevent stroke.

The Association’s recommendations for preventing acute stroke include:

* Life-style modifications to control high blood pressure and lower cholesterol, to exercise regularly, to stop smoking and minimize alcohol consumption, to keep weight within recommended limits, and to resolve chronically stressful situations.

* Use of medication to control hypertension if necessary. (The Association warns that the medication is effective “only if taken on a regular basis, so follow your physician’s instructions even on days you feel well.”)

* Medical control of any other diseases.

* Immediate medical follow-up of any signs of mini-stroke.

* Learning in advance about local health care resources that would be needed immediately in event of stroke.

One issue of the Association’s newsletter, called “Be Stroke Smart,” included an article on the importance of getting medical attention as quickly as possible after a stroke. The article said one study found that “over 50 percent of stroke patients do not go to the hospital within 24 hours of their stroke … The initial few hours after a stroke are critical,” since “therapies might be started which would limit or prevent further brain damage.”

The article also said that new research medications, including the much publicized “tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), which dissolves blood clots, must be given soon after a stroke to be effective.

In discussing “Aspirin and Stroke Prevention,” the booklet “Stroke: Reducing Your Risk,” states: “Aspirin is thought to be helpful in preventing stroke. Physicians may recommend it to people who are predisposed to blood clots, which cause two-thirds of all strokes. However, aspirin is not a cure-all … and you should consult your physician if you think you might need it. There is varying medical opinion on the most effective dosage.”

The pamphlet and a list of other publications, including “The Road Ahead: A Stroke Recovery Guide,” and “Home Exercises for Stroke Patients” are available free from the National Stroke Association, 300 East Hampden Ave., Suite 240, Englewood, CO 80110-2622. Phone (303) 762-9922.

(See page 49 of Aging, No. 359, 1989, for another publication on small and acute strokes.)

Another source offering information and nationwide resources for coping with stroke is the Courage Stroke Network of Golden Valley, Minn., at 1-800-553-6321.

The network, which reports 33,000 members, consists of 800 stroke support groups throughout the United States. It also offers seminars for stroke survivors and caregivers.

The network’s newsletter, The Stroke Connection, published six times a year, is one of the benefits of membership which costs $7 a year for stroke survivors and $15 for professionals. Information on peer counseling and other activities can be obtained by calling the 1-800 number above.

COPYRIGHT 1991 U.S. Government Printing Office

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group