[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the United States, 700,000 strokes, responsible for 165,000 deaths, occur each year. Worldwide, stroke is the 2nd leading cause of death. Stroke is a major health problem; and as the population ages, its significance will grow. This paper reviews the epidemiology of stroke, the identification of modifiable risk factors, and some of the options for intervention that can reduce stroke-related mortality and morbidity. Though the diagnosis and care of stroke patients has improved, mortality resultant from stroke remains significant, with only 50% 5-year survival in some clinical studies. The risk of stroke following a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or initial stroke is also significant-approximately 30% following either event. Stroke severity at onset and patient age are the most important factors for predicting prognosis. Stroke prevention focuses on management of the traditional cardiovascular risk factors especially control of blood pressure and smoking cessation. The role of diabetes and lipid control in stroke prevention continues to be studied. The optimum use of anticoagulation to reduce stroke risk has been explored by the Stroke in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation (SPAF) studies. Carotid endarterectomy is effective in stroke prevention for those with symptomatic carotid obstruction of 70%, but its role in other scenarios is less certain. Antiplatelet drugs continue to be an important therapy for the prevention of recurrent stroke. Centralized stroke centers that specialize in stroke diagnosis and care along with rapidly rendering appropriate treatment can improve mortality and morbidity of stroke by 20%.
Journal of insurance medicine (New York, N.Y.) 02/2004; 36(2):143-52.