Stroke Archive

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11 ways to prevent stroke

It's never too late to strike out against a potentially devastating brain attack.

Like close cousins, heart disease and stroke share a common lineage. Both emerge from a mix of nature (genes), nurture (upbringing and environment), and personal choice (smoking, exercise, etc). For most of us, personal choice largely determines whether a stroke lies ahead. Guidelines on the prevention of stroke suggest that a healthy lifestyle can cut the risk of having one by 80%. No drug, device, or other intervention can come close to doing that.

Transfusion and heart surgery: Only when needed

Unnecessary blood transfusion can do more harm than good.

Blood transfusion deserves a prominent place in the pantheon of medical advances. It has saved countless lives on the battlefield and in hospital emergency departments. It is a life-prolonging treatment for people with conditions that prevent the body from making blood or blood components, from kidney disease and cancer to disorders such as hemophilia and sickle cell anemia. But whether blood should be routinely transfused during or after heart surgery is a question that more and more people are asking. The answer is tilting toward "no."

Experts recommend low-dose aspirin to prevent stroke in women

Lower doses are as effective as higher doses and are likely to be safer.

Women ages 55 to 79 should consider taking a daily aspirin to reduce their risk of having a stroke, according to new guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an expert panel that reviews evidence and recommends preventive health strategies. The guidelines reflect evidence showing that the cardiovascular benefits of aspirin vary by gender. Aspirin reduces women's risk for ischemic stroke, the most common kind (caused by blood clots), but not heart attacks. In men, it lowers the risk of heart attacks but not strokes.

The guidelines, which were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (March 17, 2009), apply only to people with no history of heart disease or stroke. The USPSTF discourages aspirin therapy in women under age 55, because their risk for stroke is generally so low that the risk of aspirin-related gastrointestinal bleeding outweighs any benefit. Because evidence was lacking, the group made no recommendation for women ages 80 and over.

Recognizing stroke early

Early treatment of the most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke, can limit brain damage and vastly improve outcomes. Ischemic stroke is the kind caused by atherosclerosis, which causes blood clots that block the blood supply to a part of the brain. Yet too few ischemic stroke patients receive important clot-busting drugs, which are most effective when given within three hours after symptoms start. Patients often arrive at the hospital after that window of opportunity has closed. They delay getting treatment because stroke symptoms may not be that pronounced or they are mistaken as coming from other, less serious problems.

As a result, doctors are looking for ways to make it easier for the layperson to identify a stroke. The Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale is one such attempt. Some experts say it leaves out too many symptoms. Others say it will cause false alarms because it's not specific enough..

“Mini-strokes” have major risks

"Mini-strokes" have major risks

What's the difference between a stroke and a transient ischemic attack (TIA)? At first, not much. They look the same, feel the same, and stem from the same thing — blocked blood flow to the brain. But a stroke lasts for hours, maybe longer, while a TIA fades away after a few minutes.

Don't be fooled by the disappearance of symptoms. Even after they are gone, danger still lurks in the form of other TIAs, stroke, and even death.

New guidelines for stroke prevention

New guidelines for stroke prevention

With more than 700,000 Americans having strokes each year, doctors and patients need to focus on stroke prevention. In light of this, the American Heart Association (AHA) has issued a statement that details how to identify and modify risk factors. Here are the AHA's tips, along with other general guidelines for lowering stroke risk:

Blood pressure. You should get your blood pressure checked at least every two years because many people with high blood pressure don't even know they have it (130–139 mm Hg systolic pressure over 85–89 diastolic pressure is considered high-normal, while anything above 140 over 90 is considered high). If you have high blood pressure, the following lifestyle changes can help lower it:

DASH diet may lower stroke risk


 Image: cyano68/Thinkstock

Following a diet designed to lower your blood pressure may also reduce your odds of having a stroke, according to a study in the April issue of the journal Stroke.

The study relied on data from diet questionnaires from more than 74,400 people ages 45 to 84. Researchers created scores based on how closely the participants followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, a plant-focused diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. The diet has long been touted for its ability to lower blood pressure, which is one of the leading risk factors for stroke.

Owner of a lonely heart?

Loneliness and social isolation have been linked to higher risk of having a heart attack, needing a procedure to clear blocked heart arteries, or experiencing a stroke. 

Atrial fibrillation: Diagnosing and treating an abnormal heart rhythm

An abnormal heart rhythm — when your heartbeat is too slow, too fast, or irregular — may be a fleeting, harmless event. But it may also be a symptom of a more serious heart condition. One of these common abnormal heart rhythms, known medically as arrhythmias, is atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation

In atrial fibrillation (afib, for short), the heart's upper chambers, or atria, quiver instead of beating normally. The result is a fast, irregular heartbeat, which may lead to dizziness and fatigue but is often symptomless. A related condition is called atrial flutter.

When a stroke strikes

Under new guidelines, more people may qualify for a clot-retrieving procedure that promises better outcomes — once it becomes more widely available.


 Image: © Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

About every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. These potentially devastating events are nearly always caused by a blood clot blocking an artery supplying the brain (known as an ischemic stroke). Now, new guidelines have expanded the treatment options for removing or dissolving these clots — a change that experts say will save lives and prevent or limit brain damage from strokes.

"The future of stroke treatment is here. The question is, are we ready?" says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of acute stroke services at Massachusetts General Hospital. Currently, there's a shortage of specialists trained to perform the delicate procedure used to retrieve a clot during a stroke. The professional societies responsible for the training are working to catch up with the demand, she explains.

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