CRM Healthcare Kicks Off National Stroke Awareness Month

Armen Hareyan's picture
Advertisement

Women and Stroke

Women across the nation are learning how to protect themselves from stroke, thanks to a new, life-saving stroke awareness program presented by CRM Healthcare.

The program kicks off National Stroke Awareness Month (the month of May), and features a dialog among hospitals and communities from Alaska to Florida, involving an estimated 20,000 consumers and health care providers. The latest stroke information is provided during a satellite presentation by distinguished neurologist Marilyn M. Rymer, M.D., a renowned expert on stroke and the medical director of Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, MO. Immediately following the national broadcast, attendees discuss stroke issues with healthcare professionals at participating hospitals in their own communities. In some hospitals, they also participated in a health screening or risk assessment.

Educating Women about Strokes: Even though stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, women generally do not know the risk factors for stroke, its signs and symptoms,and the critical need for prompt treatment, if suspected.

"Women have not been well-educated about stroke," Dr. Rymer said during the satellite program. "Most women believe their greatest health threat is breast cancer, but in reality, two-to-four times as many women die from stroke. We've done a lot of work to help the public learn about breast cancer. We need to do the same for stroke."

Stroke is a largely unrecognized health crisis for women. Most women think of stroke as a "man's" disease. But each year, women are hit harder by stroke, the CRM Healthcare program reported. At older ages, twice as many women as men have strokes and they are more likely to be fatal. Women do worse than men on every stroke outcome measure: disability, mortality, independence, depression and quality of life.

The Women & Stroke Dialog: CRM Healthcare sponsored the free community education presentation to help change women's behavior regarding stroke and vascular health. The Women & Stroke Dialogue initiative was designed to reduce the devastation of stroke by actively involving the patient and community through increasing awareness about stroke prevention, recognizing stroke symptoms and getting treatment quickly.

Women & Stroke Dialogue is open to every healthcare organization to help women learn about their risks for stroke and their role in this pressing health issue facing women.

One of the most important things a woman can do to protect herself from stroke is to understand and assess her individual risk. Even though stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, women in general do not understand the risk factors for stroke, its signs and symptoms, and the critical need for prompt treatment if a stroke is suspected.

To close the gap in knowledge about women and stroke, on May 1, 2007, hundreds of hospitals and communities from Alaska to Florida, and an estimated 20,000 consumers and providers, kicked off National Stroke Awareness Month by participating in Women & Stroke Dialogue: A National Broadcast and Local Town- Hall Meeting for Consumers and Providers in Conjunction with National Stroke Awareness Month. The stroke awareness program was presented by CRM Healthcare, an independent health education provider. (Please see accompanying news release for details. The following information is excerpted from the content of the CRM Healthcare satellite program.)

Stroke is Not Just a Man's Disease: Stroke is a largely unrecognized health crisis for women. Most women tend to think of stroke as a "man's" disease. But each year, women are hit harder by stroke. At older ages, twice as many women as men have strokes and they are more likely to be fatal. Women do worse than men on every stroke outcome measure: disability, mortality, independence, depression and quality of life.

Advertisement

Studies show women are less likely to receive diagnostic evaluations and tend to have additional, less well-known stroke risk factors such as pregnancy, migraine with aura and oral contraceptive use. Lack of awareness of these, and the more traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure and cigarette smoking, could be devastating, as an estimated 70 to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.

"Knowing the facts about your risk profile is important," said neurologist Marilyn M. Rymer, M.D., a renowned expert on stroke and the medical director of Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, MO.

"We should all be looking at our blood pressure, cholesterol levels, exercise, weight control -- the things we are trying to drive home through this national dialogue on stroke," according to Dr. Rymer. "Look at your family history. If you are prone to early vascular diseases, you need to take even more precautions. If you are past 50, you should consider taking low- dose aspirin daily. Talk to your doctor about stroke.

"We have an extremely short amount of time to achieve the best outcome for victims of stroke," Dr. Rymer said. "Patients must arrive at a stroke center in time. Treatment for stroke is time critical. The problem is that stroke is happening in the person's brain, making it harder for them to recognize stroke symptoms. Bystanders need to know the warning signs for stroke and call 911 immediately."

The Three Signs of Stroke: "We are trying to teach people a three-part test for recognizing stroke," Dr. Rymer said. "It involves noticing three things: facial droop, arm drift and slurred or inappropriate speech. For testing an individual's speech when a stroke is suspected, we ask them to say, 'Everything's up-to-date in Kansas City.'"

While both men and women may experience the traditional onset of "sudden" symptoms such as weakness and numbness on one side of the body, difficulty with speech, loss of vision in one eye and severe dizziness, women may exhibit other symptoms. These non-traditional stroke symptoms include disorientation, more pain, shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing. These are harder to recognize as stroke symptoms and may result in later arrival at the hospital, later correct diagnosis and lower treatment rate.

The good news for women experiencing an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage of a brain artery, is that statistically, women have better functional outcomes after a clot-buster drug treatment -- intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) -- than men. This drug, referred to as "Draino" by Dr. Rymer, unplugs the clogged artery in the brain quickly and protects the injured brain. Every second counts, as tPA must be given at the hospital within three hours after a stroke occurs.

Treatment Gaps: Unfortunately, more than a decade after the FDA approved tPA for acute stroke treatment, only two to four percent of patients with strokes are receiving treatment. Out of the 600,000 ischemic strokes each year in the United States, no more than 24,000 receive actual reversal treatment.

More than one million Americans have a stroke or mini-stroke each year, and there are more than 4 million stroke survivors, many with disabilities. The cost of stroke in this country is astounding. In 2002, acute care costs reached $1.6 billion and post-acute care was $2.2 billion. By 2050, the cost of stroke is projected to exceed $2 trillion.

Major Contributing Factors: "Hypertension -- high blood pressure -- is the 1,000-pound gorilla," Dr. Rymer said. "Seventy percent of strokes are related to high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 and below. For every 15 mm decrease in systolic blood pressure (the upper reading), stroke risk is decreased by 30 percent."

Other contributing factors for stroke include total cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dl and a low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly referred to as bad cholesterol, reading above 100 mg/dl and above 70 mg/dl for diabetics; cigarette smoking; atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat); hormone replacement therapy and pregnancy.

Dr. Rymer included in her presentation patient stories of an 18-, 28-, 42- and 53-year-old female stroke survivor to drive home the point that a stroke may strike women at any age. More than 30 percent of strokes occur in women under the age of 65. A dangerous triad of risk factors for young women includes smoking, migraines with aura and use of birth control pills.

Share this content.

If you liked this article and think it may help your friends, consider sharing or tweeting it to your followers.
Advertisement