Stroke – which hits 800,000 victims each year in the U.S. alone – is sometimes thought of as an inevitable risk associated with aging. While it’s true that 70% of all strokes happen to people age 65+ (CDC), many risk factors for stroke can be modified.

In this short article, we will examine the stroke risk factors that can be reduced – and how home care can play a central role in the reduction.

Examining stroke prevention at home

Consider these facts cited in a 2018 study in Stroke Research and Treatment:

  1. There are approximately 4 million people in the U.S. who live at home with the physical and neuropsychiatric sequelae of stroke.
  2. Nearly 1 in 4 strokes happens to a person who has already had a stroke.

That means roughly 1.0 million people recovering from a stroke at home will experience a 2nd stroke. This is where prevention measures may be able to reduce risk.

1 in 4

Stroke victims who will have a 2nd stroke

1 in 4 people

“Stroke in the 21st Century: A Snapshot of the Burden, Epidemiology, and Quality of Life,” (2018) reported that “a previous stroke significantly elevates the risk of subsequent stroke with a recurrence rate of 5-25% in 1 year and 20-40% in 5 years.” Because many risk factors for stroke can be modified, we at SeniorBridge see an expanding role for medically directed home care in reducing the incidence of recurring strokes.

Evaluating risk factors

The study cited above also reported that 10 stroke risk factors are directly attributed to 90% of all strokes. Among them are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, alcohol, diabetes, stress, obesity, heart disease, inactivity, and diet

“These risk factors,” the study said, “which are predominantly traditional risk factors of stroke, are modifiable, making stroke highly preventable.”

Top 10 Stroke Risk Factors

#1: Hypertension

  • High cholesterol
  • • Smoking
  • • Alcohol
  • • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • • Obesity
  • • Heart disease
  • • Inactivity
  • • Diet
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Hypertension: The #1 culprit

Hypertension has been estimated to play a role in 45% of all strokes (both ischemic and hemorrhagic) and, according to a recent American College of Cardiology report (2020), 70%+ of adults age 65+ have hypertension.

However, “despite having the highest prevalence of hypertension and greatest risk for [cardiovascular] morbidity and mortality, older adults are frequently undertreated for elevated blood pressure (BP),” the report stated, adding that the elderly have been “traditionally excluded or underrepresented in clinical trials” for many reasons, including frailty, risk of falls, and cognitive impairment.

Managing hypertension – through adherence to medication(s), BP monitoring, diet, and lifestyle factors - is a core competency of medically directed home care. It may be the single most important way that risk of a second stroke can be reduced.

Managing other risk factors

It’s important not to overstate the ability of medically directed home care to avert the onset of stroke. However, it has been our experience at SeniorBridge that our home health professionals become deeply engaged in the lives of clients and family caregivers.

SeniorBridge client relationships grow out of steady contact. Trust is built. Because of this, risk factors can be addressed directly with the patient and the family.

For example, diet (as well as related issues such as obesity and high cholesterol) can be addressed effectively by home care professionals who are directly involved with daily eating choices. Exercise and activity, which can be initiated by a friendly suggestion or reminder, is another way home care can help reduce risk of stroke.

Moreover, increased awareness of stroke risk factors leads to better compliance with prevention practices, and home care can raise awareness on an everyday basis.

The integrated care management model by SeniorBridge

Home care services vary widely in the services they provide.

SeniorBridge offers an integrated care management practice model that involves two components:

  1. Clinical care (under the direction of an RNCM/Registered Nurse Care Manager) supported by a Social Worker and a team of caregivers, based on patient’s needs and
  2. A portfolio of home care services and geriatric care management in such areas as nutrition, caregiver education, benefit coordination, transportation, and coordination with discharge planners, physicians, pharmacy, home health agencies, and care managers.

NOTE: We have full COVID-19 safety protocols in place to keep clients, families and associates safe.

For more information on hypertension home care support services, contact SeniorBridge.

Sources consulted:
National Library of Medicine /NIH/Stroke Research and Treatment (2018)
National Library of Medicine /NIH/Circulation Research (2017)
American College of Cardiology (2020)

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