Stroke Care Awareness Urged

Neurologist calls for increasing stroke care options

(RxWiki News) Strokes can strike anyone one regardless of income, race, gender or insurance coverage. That doesn't necessarily mean that all groups are receiving adequate stroke care.

Significant disparities in stroke treatment and prevention are especially problematic for racial minorities who often experience different standards of care in all aspects of treatment.

"Know the symptoms of a stroke."

Dr. Salvador Cruz-Flores, professor of neurology and director of the Souers Stroke Institute at Saint Louis University, said the disparities are evident in every aspect of stroke care. Issues range from awareness of stroke risk factors, to delayed arrival at the emergency room and longer wait times at the hospital.

Dr. Cruz-Flores recently published a statement in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association urging awareness, education and prevention to close the gap in stroke care.

Minorities utilize emergency services less often and are not as likely to receive life-saving clot-busting medication. Differences in language and culture, socioeconomic status and insurance status also can be factors. Some prefer to see physicians who are also a racial minority, but there are not enough doctors to meet that need.

Dr. Cruz-Flores said that at other times the disparity in care derives from biological factors. Some racial and ethnic minorities are predisposed to health problems, such as higher instances of hypertension in African Americans.

Hispanics, on the other hand, tend to experience a greater burden of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which puts them at a higher risk of heart disease.

Treating high blood pressure and diabetes can help lower the risk of stroke, Dr. Cruz-Flores said, emphasizing that stroke and heart disease are preventable and treatable.

Doctors also should attempt to understand the reasons some minority patients may not follow their advice. Dr. Cruz-Flores said it may be difficult for people who live in dangerous neighborhoods to go outside and exercise, while some patients may be unable to afford medications.

To eliminate the disparity in stroke care, Dr. Cruz-Flores is urging patient and doctor education, additional research, better insurance coverage options for minorities and new public health policies designed to eliminate the gap in prevention, the number of strokes, and the care received following a stroke.

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Review Date: 
July 18, 2011