Good News – Bad News

Posted by Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter

While progress is being made in reducing the number of stroke deaths, it seems that more people who experience these brain attacks have significant stroke risk factors, a new study reveals.

The rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, smoking and drug abuse have all been on the rise in stroke patients over recent years, the study authors said.

The study included over 900,000 people hospitalized for stroke between 2004 and 2014. Each year, prevalence of high blood pressure went up by 1 percent, diabetes rose by 2 percent, high cholesterol went up by 7 percent, smoking increased by 5 percent, and drug abuse jumped 7 percent, the researchers found.

“The risk of dying from a stroke has declined significantly, while at the same time the risk factors are increasing,” said researcher Dr. Ralph Sacco. He’s a professor of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“We are not exactly sure why these increases are occurring,” Sacco said.

It’s possible that doctors are getting better at diagnosing risk factors. Or certain lifestyle factors may play a role, Sacco suggested. These include obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking.

The increase of drug abuse among younger patients is especially concerning, he added.

Although the increases in risk factors were seen in all racial and ethnic groups, increases in high blood pressure among blacks and diabetes among Hispanics stood out, Sacco noted.

He stressed that patients need to know their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. “There are great medications that can be used to treat those conditions,” Sacco said.

“We need to go further in controlling risk factors, like diet and exercise,” he advised.
According to Dr. Salman Azhar, director of stroke at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, “The challenge now is to prevent strokes, and if they have had a stroke, trying to prevent a second stroke. This is where the importance of these risk factors comes in.”

The responsibility to reduce risk factors lies with patients, but also with the community, he continued.

“It’s up to communities to provide access to better food and places to exercise. We have a responsibility as a community and a health system,” Azhar said.

The 922,000 people included in the study had been hospitalized for an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain. These are the most common types of stroke.

The number of stroke patients who had one or more risk factors increased from 88 percent in 2004 to 95 percent in 2014, the findings showed.

For hospitalized stroke patients during the 10-year study period, high cholesterol rates more than doubled, from 29 percent to 59 percent, and the rate of diabetes went from 31 percent to 38 percent.

In addition, high blood pressure rates increased from 73 percent to 84 percent, and the prevalence of drug abuse doubled from 1.4 percent to 2.8 percent. Also, kidney failure increased each year by 13 percent, and plaque buildup in the carotid (neck) arteries rose by 6 percent each year, the investigators found.

Dr. David Katz is director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn. He said the improvement in stroke survival “suggests we are relying on advances in treatment while neglecting prevention.”

Katz, who is also president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, said, “Treating disease is never as good as preserving health and vitality. This study is a precautionary tale of the questionable and costly choices we seem to be making as a culture.”

The report was published online Oct. 11 in the journal Neurology.

Copyright © 2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

I know what your thinking: What is AFib?


A littleFIB Website

What is it?

AFib is caused when the two upper chambers of the heart beat unpredictably and sometimes rapidly. These irregular heartbeats can cause blood to collect in the heart and potentially form a clot, which can travel to a person’s brain and cause a stroke. While AFib can occur at any age, it is more common in people 65 years and older. AFib is more common in people with high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.

Why it matters

AFib itself is not life threatening. However, AFib can cause blood clots. Normally, blood clots are a good thing. It’s your body’s way of protecting you from bleeding too much if you are injured.

When clots form due to AFib, however, this  significantly increases your risk of having a stroke. If a clot breaks free and blocks a blood vessel to the brain, you may have a stroke.

If you have AFib, you are five times more likely to have a stroke. Furthermore, AFib-related strokes are nearly twice as likely to be fatal or severely disabling as strokes not associated with AFib.

The good news is that diagnosing and treating AFib prevents 60 to 80 percent of strokes!

Learn more about strokes

AFib Symptoms

Sometimes people with AFib will not have any symptoms. This is known as silent AFib and can only be detected during a physical. However, others can experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • General tiredness or weakness
  • Rapid and irregular heart beat
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Anxiety or confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Low blood pressure

Know your pulse

Because a rapid heart rate may be a sign of AFib, knowing your pulse rate can alert you to a possible problem. Here are 4 easy steps to check your pulse.

Risk Factors for AFib

If you have AFib, you are not alone. About 2.7 million people in the U.S. have AFib. Many people with AFib also have one or more other health problems, such as those listed here. These other medical conditions or factors increase your risk for AFib and make managing AFib more difficult.

  • Age (AFib is more common among people 65 and older; about 11% of people over 80 have AFib)
  • Family history (an increased risk occurs in some families)
  • Gender (women are at greater risk than men)
  • High blood pressure
  • Some chronic conditions (diabetes, sleep apnea, thyroid problems,  metabolic syndrome,  chronic kidney disease or lung disease)
  • Heart disease (anyone with heart valve problems, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of heart attack or heart surgery)
  • Stimulant use (such as medications, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol)
  • Obesity

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery, or a blood vessel breaks and interrupts blood flow to the brain. When this happens, cells in your brain begin to die. The abilities controlled by the damaged area of the brain may be impacted, and stroke survivors may have difficulty with speech, movement or memory.

Risk Factors for Stroke

A stroke can happen to anyone, at any place and at any time. However, there are some well-established risk factors that can increase your risk for stroke:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Family history
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • History of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle Cell disease
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Too much alcohol
  • Tobacco use

Strokes are very serious — especially in people who have AFib. Despite this, doctors and nurses know that most AFib patients do not understand their increased risk of stroke. Many people misjudge the impact an AFib-related stroke can have on their daily life and activities.

A survey of stroke survivors echoes this: 73% said experiencing a stroke was worse than they could have imagined. Many were forced to give up jobs and enjoyable activities. Furthermore, 83% said they wish they’d known more about reducing their risk of an AFib-related stroke.

Stroke is a medical emergency! Do you know the warning signs of a stroke? Learn and use the FAST acronym to quickly identify stroke:

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