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New guidelines offer power to prevent stroke

Healthy habits and appropriate treatments help prevent stroke, according to graded, evidenced-based recommendations issued today by the American Heart Association and it's division, the American Stroke Association.

These "primary prevention" guidelines are published in the rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a major source of disability in the United States. Every year about 700,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke, resulting in nearly 158,000 deaths. From 19932003, the stroke death rate fell 18.5 percent, but the actual number of stroke deaths declined only 0.7 percent, according to 2006 association statistics.

"Stroke remains a major public health problem. Its human and economic toll is staggering," said Larry B. Goldstein, M.D., the guidelines' lead author and chair of the association's Stroke Council.

The estimated direct and indirect cost of stroke in 2006 is $57.9 billion.

"Stroke can be prevented and we are learning more about ways of accomplishing that," said Goldstein, professor of medicine (neurology) and director of the Duke Center for Cerebrovascular Disease at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. The guidelines addressed risks that can't be altered and those that can be influenced.

Non-modifiable risk factors

Risk factors that can't be changed include age, gender, race/ethnicity and family history. Older people, men, African Americans, and people with a family history of stroke are generally at greater risk than others.

The writing committee also cited low birth weight as a potential non-modifiable risk factor. Some studies have found that adults who weighed about 5.5 pounds (2,500 grams) or less at birth have double the risk of stroke as adults who weighed about 8 pounds (4,000 grams) or more at birth. However, the reason for this relationship remains uncertain.
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Contact: Bridgette McNeill
bridgette.mcneill@heart.org
214-706-1396
American Heart Association
5-May-2006


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