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By Terrey L. Hatcher, Editorial Group Manager
Because almost 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, public education about stroke risks and signs is important. So is proper training for primary care physicians and internists.
New clinical trials show promise for new drugs and treatment options for stroke, according to Matthew Fink, MD, chairman of the department of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Recognizing a stroke and getting patients quick and appropriate treatment at the right hospital is vital for maximum recovery. If doctors are not thinking about the possibility of stroke and fail to perform appropriate tests, Fink says, they may miss it and fail to treat it. “The difficulty is that some small community hospitals don’t have the expertise to do this evaluation or interventions, and patients may have to be transferred from one hospital to another,” he notes. “That causes sometimes unnecessary delays and sometimes it will deprive the patient of proper treatment.”
If you think someone could be having a stroke, call 911 immediately. Transport by ambulance is best because time is of the essence to get the best treatment options, notes Fink. He shares his advice on best practices in a Relias Media podcast episode on stroke. Fink is physician editor of Neurology Alert and is the Louis and Gertrude Feil Professor of Clinical Neurology at Weill Cornell.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and costs about $34 billion a year, including healthcare, medication, and productivity deficits, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC lists the most common signs and symptoms in a fact sheet.
Prevention is extremely important, Fink says, because 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. The most important risk factor is high blood pressure. About one-third of strokes are caused by a blood clot from the heart that goes to the brain in people with atrial fibrillation, he says, something that can be prevented with antithrombotics or anticoagulants. Other risk factors include high cholesterol, lack of exercise, and hormonal treatment in women.
In the podcast, Fink discusses recent research into new drugs and other treatment options such as stem cell therapies. “I can’t predict what’s going to happen,” Fink says, “but I’m an optimist by nature, and I’m hoping these stem cell trials will show a real benefit for patients with sustained brain damage from their strokes.”