Strokes are highly preventable, new study says - Cape Cod Healthcare

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Published on May 17, 2017

Strokes are highly preventable, new study says

Nine out of ten. That’s the number of strokes that are caused by changeable health and lifestyle habits, according to a recent study.

Eliminating high blood pressure would cut the number of strokes almost in half (48%), for example, while increasing physical activity would bring down the number of strokes by 36%. Other major causes that can be controlled are high cholesterol (27%), bad diets (19%), and smoking (12%).

The other controllable risk factors, according to the study are:

  • Maintain a healthy weight,
  • Prevent diabetes
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Lower stress
  • Take preventive medication for heart arrhythmias

Combined, the risk factors were linked to 91% of strokes, in the men and women in all of the age groups and 32 countries covered by the study, which was conducted by McMaster University researchers and published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Your Health Is In Your Hands

“Strokes are highly preventable, and factors patients can control can make a huge difference in preventing them,” said Peter Chiotellis, MD, a cardiologist based at The Heart Center in Hyannis, where he provides preventive and diagnostic cardiac care. “Most of the same risk factors for heart disease apply for stroke as well.

The future of medicine is going to be addressed in terms of personal responsibility, he added.

“We can tell people to quit smoking, but it’s only the patient that can make the changes. If people make lifestyle changes with regard to smoking, diet and exercise, a lot of the risk of stroke can be offset. It’s hard to lose weight and it’s hard to quit smoking, but changing those two risk factors makes a big difference,” he said.

The McMaster study looked at data from more than 26,000 patients between 2007 and 2015. Although there were some variations from country to country in terms of the extent of each controllable risk factor, in all 32 countries the 10 risk factors were linked with 91% of strokes.

“Our findings will inform the development of global population-level interventions to reduce stroke, and how such programs may be tailored to individual regions,” said one of the study’s lead authors, Dr. Salim Yusuf, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada, in a press release.

The study was published in the Lancet with a companion commentary by New Zealand researchers Valery L. Feigin and Rita Krishnamurthi of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at Auckland’s University of Technology.

“Now is the time for governments, health organizations, and individuals to proactively reduce the global burden of stroke,” they wrote. “Governments of all countries should develop and implement an emergency action plan for the primary prevention of stroke.”

But Dr. Chiotellis said much of the responsibility lies with individuals.

“There’s only so much you can do as a physician,” he said. “We can try our best as doctors to take care of patients but if they don’t make the lifestyle changes that we recommend, nothing’s going to change.”

Immediate treatment can prevent death and minimize the long-term effects of a stroke. Be sure you know the B.E. F.A.S.T. guidelines to recognize the signs of a stroke.

To learn more about how to prevent, recognize and treat strokes, Cape Cod Healthcare will hold a Stroke Awareness Fair on Thursday, May 25, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Lorusso Conference Center at Cape Cod Hospital. The event is free and open to the public.