Good news! Fewer Americans are having strokes

Aug. 3, 2014—Stroke rates in the U.S. are dropping, and fewer Americans who have strokes are dying from them, according to findings published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

About the study

This study was many years in the making. Between 1987 and 1989, researchers collected health information on over 14,000 adults with no stroke history. Researchers tracked the health of these adults for years, ending in 2011. Examinations, phone interviews, hospital discharge information and death reports all played a part in monitoring the health of these people.

The results of this work are certainly encouraging. For example, first-time strokes dropped by 24 percent in each of the last two decades, while deaths from strokes fell by 20 percent per decade. The declines, which held steady across race and gender, may be partly due to better control of stroke risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. An improvement in stroke treatments may have played a role as well.

There were differences in the impact of stroke by age, however, as declines in stroke risk were mainly seen in those over 65, while declines in stroke deaths were found mainly in those younger than 65. Researchers warned that more should be done to determine why there are different results seen among different age groups.

Read the study abstract here.

The take-home message
Stroke numbers are declining, and that’s a great thing. However, strokes are still one of the top causes of death in the U.S., and quickly recognizing signs of a stroke can mean speedier treatment and a greater chance of survival.

A quick way to remember stroke signs is to think of the acronym FAST:

  • Face: Does one side of the person’s face droop when he or she smiles?
  • Arms: Does one of the person’s arms drift downward if he or she tries to raise it?
  • Speech: Does the person have slurred speech when asked to repeat a simple phrase?
  • Time: If you see any of these signs, call 911 right away.

Other symptoms of stroke that you might notice in yourself include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arms or legs. You may experience these sensations on only one side of your body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. If possible, note the time that symptoms began. This important information can help health care providers make treatment decisions, like whether to administer certain clot-busting medications.

To find out more about whether you might be at risk for stroke, click here.

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