Health Feature Archive
In the United States, about 400,000 people a year suffer from a stroke, and up to 40% of these strokes may be fatal. The cost of strokes is not just measured in the billions of dollars lost in work, hospitalization, and the care of survivors in nursing homes. The major cost or impact of a stroke is the loss of independence that occurs in 30% of the survivors. What was a self-sustaining and enjoyable lifestyle may lose most of its quality after a stroke and other family members can find themselves in a new role as caregivers.
The most common risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure and
increasing age. Diabetes and certain heart conditions, such as atrial
fibrillation, are other common risk factors. When strokes occur in younger
individuals (less than 50 years old), less common risk factors are often
involved. These risk factors include drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines,
ruptured aneurysms, and inherited (genetic) predispositions to blood clotting.
Another example of a genetic predisposition to stroke occurs in a rare condition
called homocystinuria, in which there are excessive levels of the chemical
homocystine in the body. Furthermore, scientists are trying to determine whether
the non-hereditary occurrence of high levels of homocystine at any age can
predispose to stroke. Another rare cause of stroke is vasculitis, a condition in
which the blood vessels become inflamed. Finally, there appears to be a very
slight increased occurrence of stroke in people with migraine headache.