Health Feature Archive

Stroke Awareness

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.