Monday, May 28, 2007

Stroke is often undertreated

Hello friends,
I've been so busy recently that I haven't yet written my next major disease post, which will be on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or, as it is often known, Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). Stay tuned...

In the meantime I was reading the New York Times today and there was a long article about strokes, and how so many patients are not treated with the drug, tPA, which could prevent much of the permanent damage that sadly often results from an ischemic (blockage type) stroke. First, strokes caused by bleeding must be ruled out before giving the drug, but many hospitals are not staffed or equipped to do this in a timely manner. Therefore the drug is often not given early enough or at all, to those who might have benefited from it.

Please see this link for the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/28/health/28stroke.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Signs of a stroke include:

-Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
-Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
-Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
-Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
-Sudden, severe headache with no known cause body

More information can be found here: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4742

High blood pressure leads the list of risk factors for stroke. Other co-factors include a history of "transient ischemic attacks" (which cause temporary symptoms of stroke), high cholesterol, diabetes, cigarette smoking, artery disease (particularly the carotid artery, which is in the neck), heart disease or failure in general, atrial fibrillation (improper heart rhythm of the upper pumping chamber of the heart), sickle cell anemia, poor diet, obesity and inactivity. Alcohol and drug use are often associated with strokes as well. Most of these are under your control so you can take steps to prevent a stroke.

One of the points the article makes is to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and be sure to get treatment as quickly as possible. If there is a hospital that is accredited as a Primary Stroke Center, by all means try to go there, as they will have the equipment and expertise to treat you.

This handy website allows you to search within your area for the locations of Primary Stroke Centers. In addition, you can search for other specialties such as acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and pneumonia, among others: http://www.jointcommission.org/certificationPrograms/disease-specificCare/DSCOrgs/

I was interested to learn that the two hospitals that are considered Primary Stroke Centers in my region were both fairly close, and yet not the hospitals I might have initially tried to go to in the case of an emergency. This is good information to know for future reference!

One thing that struck me was that the woman profiled in the NY Times article, who did have a stroke, but luckily was treated properly for it, had blood pressure of 200 over 120 for five years and yet decided not to go on medication because she was "too young" (53) and figured she'd worry about it later. There are so many medications out there now that can treat high blood pressure, no one should delay in getting treatment for it. The earlier it is treated the less long-term damage it can do and the less the likelihood of it causing a stroke. Please see my previous post about high blood pressure for more information.