How strokes impact Alaskans' quality of life

National Stroke Awareness Month takes place in May every year. On May 11, 1989, President George Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 5975 designating May as National Stroke Awareness Month. Since then, National Stroke Association has been honoring this special time of the year to increase public awareness of stroke in an effort to conquer it.

Here are some facts about stroke in Alaska, provided by the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health, Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program:

What is stroke costing Alaskans in terms of lives?

• Stroke was the fifth leading cause of death in Alaska in 2008

• In 2008, 170 Alaskans died from stroke

Although there has been a decline in Alaskan age-adjusted stroke death rates between 1994 and 2008, the actual number of stroke deaths has increased over this time by around 20 percent. This is due to an aging and growing population.

Economic burden

• Stroke was associated with 1,400 hospital discharges in Alaska in 2007

• On average, stroke-related hospital stays cost $27,163 and lasted six days

• In 2007, Medicaid payments linked with stroke-related services totaled over $12.5 million, the majority of which was for long-term care.

Stroke and quality of life

• Nationally, stroke is also a leading cause of functional impairments, with 15 percent to 30 percent being permanently disabled

• 22 percent of Alaskans who have suffered a stroke report that their everyday activities have been limited because of that condition.

The power of prevention

Despite the advent of effective treatments for select patient subgroups, such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for those with acute ischemic stroke, prevention remains the best way to reduce the burden of stroke.

The following are just a few of the risk factors for stroke:

• Tobacco use. 61 percent of Alaskans with a history of stroke smoke now or used to be smokers

• High blood pressure. 55 percent of Alaskans with a history of stroke have been told they have high blood pressure

• Atrial fibrillation. In fiscal year 2010, 861 Alaskans were paid 6,201 Medicaid claims associated with atrial fibrillation

• Carotid stenosis. In fiscal year 2010, 373 Alaskans were paid 915 Medicaid claims associated with carotid stenosis.

For further information:

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