Stroke

Tonja Ward | 6/12/2008, 6:09 p.m.
When a stroke, occurs the loss of blood flow to the brain damages brain tissue causing the loss of millions ...

The toll for strokes in America affects a staggering 700,000 people annually.  It is the third leading cause of death in America claiming some 160,000 lives.

However, stroke is highly treatable when immediate medical attention is received and there are preventative measures people can take to lower their risk.

Likelihood for Minorities:

While the death rate from stroke sis lower among Hispanics, American Indians and Asians and Pacific Islanders than Whites, African Americans suffer disproportionately.  African Americans are almost twice as likely to have a first-time stroke as Whites.  They are almost one and a half more likely to die from the condition. African-American women are 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke and 1.3 times more likely to die of a stroke than white women.

There are two types of stroke:

Ischemic stroke -  when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The clot forms in the blood vessel or travels from somewhere else in the blood system. They are the most common, accounting for 8 out of 10 strokes in older adults. A transient ischemic stroke (mini-stroke) has symptoms of a stroke that go away quickly. It can come as a warning that a stroke may happen soon.

Hemorrhagic stroke - when an artery in the brain leaks or bursts. This causes bleeding inside the brain or near the surface of the brain. They are less common but more deadly than ischemic strokes.

Doctors perform a CT scan of the brain to determine which type of stroke has happened for purposes of treatment.  For an ischemic stroke, treatment focuses on restoring blood flow and preventing further blood clots.  A hemorrhagic stroke can be hard to treat and may require surgery or other treatments to stop bleeding, reduce swelling or control blood pressure.

Once the condition is stable, treatment shifts to rehabilitation and prevention of future strokes.

How much do Minorities know?

Knowledge of stroke warning signs remains low among U.S. women, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities, according to a national survey reported in a special disparities themed issue of "Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association."

"Our study documents a knowledge gap between racial/ethnic minorities and whites regarding stroke warning signs," said Anjanette Ferris, M.D., lead author of the report and a clinical fellow in cardiovascular disease at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City in a report by the American Heart Association. "It is paradoxical that racial and ethnic minorities at the highest risk were least aware. As with heart attack, it is critical that women at risk for stroke know the warning signs because delayed treatment can lead to greater disability or death."

The results of the American Heart Associations survey found that nearly one-third of Hispanic women reported that they were not informed about strokes compared to 20 percent of African-American and 10 percent of white women.  It also showed that more white women correctly identified stroke warning signs than did African-American or Hispanic women.

"A significantly higher percentage of African-American respondents correctly believed that African-American women are more likely to die of a stroke than white women," Ferris said. "However, African-American women were still less likely to correctly identify stroke warning signs."

Ways you can change your risks:

Keeping your blood pressure under control is a big factor. 80 percent of the risk of a stroke is due to high blood pressure.  Lowering blood pressure can cut your risk of a stroke by about 40 percent.

Smoking can more than double your risk of stroke. So don't smoke and avoid second hand smoke. Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber grains and breads, and olive oil. Get some form of physical activity on most days of the week. Be sure to get your doctors approval before you begin. Keep your cholesterol under control. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar in your target range. Limit alcohol consumption since having more than 2 drinks a day increases the risk of a stroke.

If you have had a stroke, you are at risk for having another one. Making the same important lifestyle changes and improving your overall health will help lower your risks.

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