Health Wrap for August 18th

A new study in the medical journal the Lancet shows that all forms of tobacco exposure…namely smoking, chewing or inhaling second hand smoke increase the risk of heart attack up to three times. Even low levels of exposure, say, a half a pack a day, doubled the risk of heart attack compared to those who never smoked. The good news is, the risk of heart attack decreased with time after stopping smoking. Among those who smoked less than ten cigarettes a day, there was no excess risk three to five years after quitting. But heavier smokers still had an excess risk of 22 percent even twenty years after quitting. Bottom line, it’s best not to start. By the way, exposure to second hand smoke of 22 hours a week or more may increase one’s risk of heart attack by 45 percent.

Unless Americans do more to lower their risk of stroke and improve stroke care, the nation will pay $2.2 trillion over the next 45 years to care for people who suffer the most common form of stroke. That’s according to a new University of Michigan study. A disproportionate share of the bill will be for African-American and Latino stroke patients, because of their tendency to suffer strokes at younger ages and get poorer-quality preventive care than others.

 Stroke-related costs among people under age 65 account for about half of the predicted total, which includes lost wages. The researchers say their $2.2-trillion estimate is extremely conservative, because it is based on current rates of the conditions that put people at higher risk of stroke such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. These conditions are projected to become even more common in the future.

Individuals can cut their own risk of a future stroke by quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthy, exercising, and keeping their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and any heart-rhythm problems under control Doctors and hospitals can do a better job of providing preventive care and screening to patients with high blood pressure, clogged arteries and heart-rhythm problems. And, they can improve their use of a post-stroke drug called TPA.

 The problem with that though, is that patients need to get to the hospital within three hours of the onset of symptoms. Treatment with TPA in the first three hours after an ischemic stroke begins can restore blood flow to the brain, preventing damage and reducing the cost of the patient’s future care. But only about three percent of ischemic stroke patients who could receive TPA actually do.

Symptoms include sudden, severe symptoms that may include dizziness, numbness, paralysis of the face, arms or legs, problems with speaking or swallowing, confused thinking, loss of vision, and fainting. If you develop any of these, you should go to the emergency room immediately.


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