Quick response to mild, moderate strokes lowers disability risk

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death among the senior population, but even patients who survive are not in the clear. Frequently, strokes can cause long-lasting physical disabilities that can make it hard for older adults to maintain independence. It can be difficult to prevent these issues, but according to a new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stoke, responding to mild strokes within 90 minutes can drastically cut the risk of disability.

Quick response makes all the difference
The study, conducted by researchers at Finland’s Helsinki University Central Hospital, was based on an analysis of more than 6,800 stroke patients over the course of 14 years. All subjects were treated with the clot-busting drug Alteplase and were separated into three groups based on how severe their stroke was. Although patients with severe stroke did not benefit greatly from a fast response, those with mild to moderate strokes did see some improvement. Specifically, those who were treated within 90 minutes saw little to no disability three months after their stroke.

“Ultra-early treatment increases the likelihood of excellent outcome in patients with moderately severe symptoms, and in secondary analysis also in those with mild symptoms,” said study leader Dr. Daniel Strbian. “All measures must be taken to reduce onset-to-treatment time as much as possible.”

Recognize the symptoms
More than anything else, the study’s findings highlight the importance of recognizing stroke symptoms as early as possible. While it certainly can be challenging, there are some tell-tale signs of stroke that should spur early action. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the earliest indicators of a stroke are trouble walking, problems speaking or understanding other people and paralysis or numbness in the limbs. Sudden headaches and visual impairment are also signs that something could be wrong.

A widespread issue
Strokes are a significant concern for senior care providers. In fact, an estimated 50,000 strokes occur in Canada each year and there are approximately 315,000 Canadians living with the effects of a stroke, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Of course, the best way to avoid such complications is to reduce the risk of experiencing a stroke in the first place. There are a number of controllable risk factors including keeping blood pressure at a manageable level and reducing cholesterol intake.