September 07, 2017
1 min read

CDC: PCPs can help regain momentum in fight against stroke

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Photo of Brenda Fitzgerald
Brenda Fitzgerald

The CDC has outlined several steps primary care physicians can take to reduce the number of stroke deaths and improve patient care, such as recognizing the early signs of one.

The suggestions were made after the agency released data that suggest the rate of strokes has stagnated after years of decline.

“This is an important wakeup call,” Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, director, CDC, said in a conference call. “It’s clear we have work to do to reduce this burden. There’s no one answer [and] it will take all of us ... working together to ensure that the short-term trend of a decrease does not become a long-term one.”

CDC personnel suggested several ways health care professionals can improve care and lower stroke deaths.

“Health systems can use system-wide approaches to find patients with undiagnosed or unmanaged stroke risk factors,” Robert Merritt, MA, of the CDC’s Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, said during the call. “They can also work with emergency medical systems to quickly identify strokes and get patients to the hospital quickly.

“Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals ... can also encourage patients to take their blood pressure medications as directed, and help patients make lifestyle changes that reduce the risk for stroke,” he continued.

Specifically, Merritt recommended referring patients to services that can better manage stroke risk factors, such as smoking cessation classes and quitlines, as well as obesity and diabetes prevention programs. He also suggested reminding patients of stroke symptoms, commonly referred to as FAST: facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time, as in time to call 911.

The CDC also reported the following:

•Blacks still have the highest stroke death rates among all races/ethnicities.

•More adults aged 35 to 64 years are having strokes than before, and more of them have some of the risk factors for stroke, such as obesity, diabetes, lipid disorders and high BP.

•Stroke death rates increased among Hispanics by 6% each year from 2013 to 2015.

•Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke.

•Strokes are responsible for 40,000 deaths and $34 billion in medical costs annually.

– by Janel Miller

Disclosures: Fitzgerald and Merritt work for the CDC. The other researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.