May 12, 2018
3 min read

ASA: 20 facts patients may not know about stroke

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May is American Stroke Month, which directly coincides with the 20th anniversary of the American Stroke Association.

The American Stroke Association (ASA) Together to End Stroke initiative continues to expand awareness of stroke; however, stroke is still a leading cause of preventable death and lacks awareness, education and resources.

To help raise awareness among patients with stroke, the ASA has released a list of 20 important things patients likely do not know about stroke:


1.There are different types of strokes: ischemic, hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attack. An ischemic stroke is a clot-caused blockage in an artery to the brain, whereas a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery ruptures in the brain. A TIA, or “mini-stroke,” is caused by a temporary blockage. Eighty-seven percent of all strokes are ischemic.

2.During a stroke, nearly 120 million brain cells die every hour. Compared with the normal rate of cell loss in brain aging, the brain ages 3.6 years each hour without treatment. The sooner the patient gets medical care, the better their chances of recovery.

3.Roughly 66% of strokes are spotted by a bystander — recognizing the warning signs and sudden symptoms of stroke could help save a life.

4.F.A.S.T. is an acronym used to teach the most common warning signs and sudden symptoms of stroke. F.A.S.T. stands for (F) face drooping, (A) arm weakness, (S) speech difficulty, (T) time to call 911. Less than half of the population is aware of the signs.

5.Stroke symptoms can also include sudden numbness, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden severe headache with no known cause and sudden trouble walking.

6.Calling 911 and arriving at the hospital in an ambulance is the fastest way to get treated quickly during a stroke emergency. Driving to the hospital is a common mistake people make, which can result in longer wait times before the patient receives medical care.

7.Patients who have an ischemic stroke may have a treatment window for mechanical clot removal within 6 hours to up to 24 hours in certain patients with clots in large vessels.

8.Alteplase (also known as tPA) is a drug used to dissolve a blood clot that causes stroke. Patients with stroke who arrive at a hospital within 90 minutes of symptom onset and qualify to receive tPA are nearly three times more likely to recover with little or no disability.

9.“Telestroke” is videoconferencing, similar to Facetime and Skype, connecting patients with neurological experts separated by distance. Telestroke units are increasing access to acute stroke care in rural areas and improving patient outcomes.


10.Having a stroke increases the risk of a second one (1 in 4 survivors have another stroke). Prevention is crucial because second strokes can be more debilitating than first strokes.

11.In some ischemic stroke cases, the cause is unknown (cryptogenic stroke). It is a challenge to prevent a second stroke when the cause of the first one is unknown. Patients should work with their health care team to find the root cause.

12.Stroke survivors stopping their aspirin regimen can increase their risk of having another stroke, possibly due to increased clotting levels from the loss of aspirin’s blood-thinning effects. Following an aspirin regimen can help prevent stroke in some survivors.

13.First-ever ASA rehabilitation guidelines call for an intensive team approach. For the first 3 months after a stroke, the brain is ready to learn. This ability of the brain to adjust is known as neuroplasticity and plays a crucial role in recovery.

14.Get With the Guidelines-Stroke is an in-hospital program that promotes adherence to the latest scientific guidelines to improve quality of stroke care. The program has expanded from 24 hospitals in 2003 to more than 2,000 hospitals today.

15.In the “stroke belt,” an 11-state region in the southeast U.S., the risk for stroke is 34% higher for the general population.

16.More strokes are happening to adults aged 30 to 49 years.

17.High BP is the most common controllable cause of stroke. Recent guidelines redefined high BP as a reading of 130 mm Hg/80 mm Hg or higher. A normal reading in an adult would be BP less than 120 mm Hg/80 mm Hg but greater than 90 mm Hg/60 mm Hg.

18.Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. (an estimated 103 million) have high BP.

19.Other stroke risk factors are obesity, diabetes, cholesterol, smoking and family history.

20.Eighty percent of strokes are preventable. Eating healthfully, being physically active and controlling risk factors are important lifestyle changes that can help prevent and beat stroke.

“We must aggressively continue our efforts to reduce stroke, especially in multicultural communities and to reach people at younger ages,” Mitchell S.V. Elkind, MD, professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University and chair of the ASA, said in a press release. “If people are not aware of how to prevent, treat and beat stroke, they can’t take advantage of the progress made over the last 20 years to save lives.”

Disclosures: Elkind reports he is an expert witness for Auxilium, Hi-Tech Pharmaceutical and Merck/Organon; a consultant or on the advisory board for Abbott, BioTelemetry/CardioNet, Boehringer Ingelheim, Medtronic and Sanofi/Regeneron; and receives other support from UpToDate.