Strokes linked to plunging temperatures




People call it “pneumonia weather,” but new research indicates “stroke weather” may be a more fitting description for this spring’s meteorological madness.


Suddenly plunging temperatures and high moisture levels coincide with increased hospitalizations for stroke. Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health came to that conclusion after comparing daily climate data against a nationwide sample of 134,510 stroke victims.


They presented their findings last month at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.


“People at risk for stroke may want to avoid being exposed to significant temperature changes and high dew point and, as always, act quickly if they or someone they know experiences stroke signs and symptoms,” said Yale Professor Judith H. Lichtman, an epidemiologist who was the study author.


A stroke occurs when a clot stops blood flow to part of the brain or when a blood vessel bursts in the brain.



Stroke news

Findings reported at the stroke conference in San Diego included:


New mothers

Mothers of newborns are at increased risk for blood clots for three months after having their babies — twice as long as previously recognized. The risk is 10.8 times higher up to the sixth week after delivery and 2.2 times higher during weeks seven through 12. By weeks 19-24, the chance of developing a clot returned to normal. Researchers with Weill Cornell Medical College used data from 1.7 million women who delivered babies at a California hospital over a five-year period.


Childhood vaccines

Vaccines may lower children’s risk for stroke by protecting them from infections. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center found that children who had “some, few or no vaccinations” were 6.7 times more likely to have a stroke than those receiving “all or most” vaccines.


Cocaine use

Cocaine greatly increases the risk of stroke in young adults. Researchers determined that people are six to seven times more likely to suffer a stroke within 24 hours of using cocaine. “With few exceptions, we believe every young stroke patient should be screened for drug abuse at the time of hospital admission,” said professor Yu-Ching Cheng with the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Despite the strong stroke risk associated with acute cocaine use, in our study only about one-third of young stroke victims had toxicology screenings done during hospitalization. We think the percentage of cocaine use could be higher than we’ve reported.”


Hospitals matter

Although four out of five people in the United States live within an hour’s drive of a hospital equipped to treat stroke, very few get the proper treatment. Researchers examined more than 370,000 Medicare stroke claims for 2011 and found that only 4 percent received a drug that can reduce disability if given intravenously within three to four hours after the first stroke symptoms. Only 0.5 percent received a treatment to reopen clogged arteries. “If a patient suspects they are having a stroke, they need to call 911 immediately and get to the nearest stroke center as soon as possible, which might mean bypassing another hospital that isn’t set up to deliver the necessary therapy,” said Dr. Opeolu Adeoye, a professor of neurosurgery with the University of Cincinnati.


Is it a stroke?

Stroke signs and symptoms include:

• A drooping face

• Arm weakness

• Speech difficulty



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