Health Buzz More Pregnant Women New Moms Having Strokes
CDC: Spike in Pregnancy-Related Strokes
The stroke rate among pregnant women and new moms is increasing at an "alarming" rate, the federal government warned Thursday. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed hospital-discharge data, and found that between 1994-5 and 2006-07, the rate of stroke hospitalizations rose 47 percent for expectant mothers and 83 percent for women who had recently given birth. Although the overall incidence remains low—0.22 stroke hospitalizations per 1,000 expectant and new moms—the increase is worrisome, say the study authors. The most likely explanation is that pregnant women are increasingly likely to have other risk factors for stroke, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. "That is a very, very alarm-raising statistic that we need to take extremely seriously," Olajide Williams, a neurologist at Columbia University and an American Stroke Association spokesman, told USA Today. "We need to be more aggressive in screening these women for these risk factors." The findings were published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Stroke: 7 Signs You Could Be at Risk of a Brain Attack
Stroke can hit like a deadly lightning bolt. And if the victim survives, the aftermath can be debilitating—affecting functioning from movement to speech. While stroke is the third-leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, it trails behind other major diseases in awareness and recognition of symptoms. Being informed, however, can protect you from suffering either an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot and the most common form of stroke, or the less common hemorrhagic stroke, caused by bleeding in the brain. Know the factors that may be putting you at risk:
Uncontrolled high blood pressure. As for all cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. The American Heart Association estimates that only 45 percent of people with high blood pressure actually have it under control, U.S. News reported in 2009. Female stroke victims, in particular, tend to have uncontrolled blood pressure, and in general, women who suffer strokes don't seem to be treated as aggressively as men. High blood pressure doesn't have any outward telltale signs, so getting it measured by your healthcare provider is essential to determine if you should make lifestyle changes or take medications to bring it down.
Smoking. Puffing on cigarettes is associated with a host of ills. An increased risk of stroke is one of them. When compared to nonsmokers, smokers have double the risk of ischemic stroke. Heavy smokers face an even greater risk: A study of women ages 15 to 49 published in the journal Stroke found stroke risk was proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The women who smoked two or more packs a day had nine times the risk of stroke of a nonsmoker. And a study in Neurology found that smokers with a family history of brain aneurysm, abnormal bulging of an artery in the brain, are six times as likely to have a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a kind of stroke caused by a bleed between the brain and the tissue that covers it. These types of stroke are deadly nearly 40 percent of the time. [Read more: Stroke: 7 Signs You Could Be at Risk of a Brain Attack.]
5 Symptoms You Need to Know to Recognize a Stroke Immediately
Minimizing the time between the onset of a stroke and the start of stroke treatment is critical for surviving the brain attack and minimizing the resulting brain injury. The key is to immediately get to the emergency room for a brain scan to detect which type of stroke has hit. If it's ischemic—caused by a blood clot—the best treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA, and the quicker the treatment, the less the disabling damage. Most hospitals will treat stroke patients with TPA only if the medicine can be injected within three hours of the appearance of symptoms, which is why getting to the hospital is such an urgent matter. One study found, however, that TPA can be safe and effective up to 4½ hours after a stroke. Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a bleeding vessel in the brain, involves lowering blood pressure and reducing swelling in the brain, U.S. News reported in 2009.
Stroke can present itself with a range of symptoms, but the consistent factor is that they come on suddenly. Call 911 immediately if you, or someone you're with, experience any of the following:
Numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body. This can be in the face, an arm, or a leg. If someone you're with appears to be experiencing this, ask the person to smile, lift both arms, or move both legs, the National Stroke Association recommends. If one side of the body doesn't respond, it may be a sign of stroke. [Read more: 5 Symptoms You Need to Know to Recognize a Stroke Immediately.]
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