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Stroke Awareness Month

Last month was National Stroke Awareness Month. That is why I am talking about stroke now. Like with a New Year’s Day resolution, the best time to talk about the aspirational promises we make is probably in February! So, in continuing with my series of specialty hospital care and what you need to know to defend yourself or your loved one in the healthcare system, we are going to talk about stroke care.

First, the facts. According to the CDC:

In 2020, 1 in 6 deaths from cardiovascular disease was due to stroke.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Every 3.5 minutes, someone dies of stroke.

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.

About 185,000 strokes—nearly 1 in 4—are in people who have had a previous stroke.

About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.

Stroke-related costs in the United States came to nearly $53 billion between 2017 and 2018. This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.

Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and older.

Stroke statistics by race and ethnicity

Stroke is a leading cause of death for Americans, but the risk of having a stroke varies with race and ethnicity.

Risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for Blacks as for Whites, and Blacks have the highest rate of death due to stroke.

Though stroke death rates have declined for decades among all race/ethnicities, Hispanics have seen an increase in death rates since 2013.

Stroke risk varies by age

Stroke risk increases with age, but strokes can—and do—occur at any age.

In 2014, 38% of people hospitalized for stroke were less than 65 years old.

Early action is important for stroke

Know the warning signs and symptoms of stroke so that you can act fast if you or someone you know might be having a stroke. The chances of survival are greater when emergency treatment begins quickly.

In one survey, most respondents—93%—recognized sudden numbness on one side as a symptom of stroke. Only 38% were aware of all major symptoms and knew to call 9-1-1 when someone was having a stroke.

Patients who arrive at the emergency room within 3 hours of their first symptoms often have less disability 3 months after a stroke than those who received delayed care.

Americans at risk for stroke

The following conditions increase your risk for stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes are leading causes of stroke. One in 3 U.S. adults has at least one of these conditions or habits.

Different kinds of strokes

Basically, there are two distinct categories of strokes that require some understanding because they are treated quite differently. One is the ischemic stroke which is an occlusion to blood flow in a part of the brain by an atherosclerotic plaque or clot. It is treated by thinning the blood and “breaking” the occlusion. The other type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke, meaning uncontrolled bleeding into the brain caused by a ruptured aneurysm, trauma or some vascular malformation. It very often requires surgery. As you have probably determined, treating a hemorrhagic stroke by thinning the blood and increasing blood flow causes greater damage to the brain and can even lead to death.

Choosing the right hospital

Not all hospitals can treat a stroke or determine which kind of stroke you may be having. Hospitals that have met the requirements of properly trained clinicians, support services, and equipment necessary to treat an ischemic stroke (primary stroke centers) and those that can also diagnose and treat a bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke (comprehensive stroke centers) bear the distinction of certification by the Joint Commission (JC) a national organization dedicated to assuring quality health care. So, you want the facility and caregivers attending to you to be able to make that distinction, and just as importantly, to be able to treat the kind of stroke you are having. The speed of treatment is something that also matters. The common term used by medical practitioners to illustrate this concept is, “time is tissue.” It’s true. Once neurons and other brain tissue is destroyed it doesn’t regenerate, at least not in the same way. Therefore, the delay in treatment means more damage, longer recovery – if even possible – and a loss of quality of life.

Won’t the professionals know?

If you are being transported to a hospital by EMS then likely they will know which hospitals are primary and comprehensive stroke centers. That said, they will likely not know what kind of stroke you are having. They don’t have scanners in ambulances after all. Additionally, some areas of the country are a significant distance from a stroke center of any sort. It pays for you as a potential patient to know. Or let’s assume that a loved one has been admitted to a hospital in another state and you get the question, “Is this the right kind of hospital?” How will you know?

First, you can research according to your local health department websites or state hospital associations. This is a good starting point, but there are some other products including an app which is described on my website:

Available at the Apple App Store and Googleplay. Minson’s Guide is updated monthly so you can rest assured.

Regardless of how you go about it, it pays to minimize your risk and to be better informed as to the hoispital that can best support you or someone you love

For more information about stroke and the risks associated with stroke please visit the links below

Be Well!


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