Posts Tagged ‘stroke’

Critical Illness Insurance Claims Often Begin Prior To Age 55

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Just under half (47%) of new critical illness insurance claims in 2011 began prior to age 55 according to the 2012 Buyer & Claimant Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) and General Re Life Corporation.  This marks a significant increase in claims by younger policyholders compared to the prior year’s analysis.

The percentage of claims that occurred before age 45 grew compared to 2010.  Some 13 percent of male policyholders and 12 percent of female policyholders who received benefits were younger than 45 according to the data from 10 leading critical illness insurers.  “The increase in younger claimants is likely due to an increase in younger buyers of this relatively new form of insurance coverage,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the recently formed critical illness insurance trade group.  “With higher health insurance deductibles and more restrictive plans, critical illness insurance is starting to gain traction among buyers in their 30s and 40s.”
The study found a pronounced year-to-year increase in the number of claims paid to policyholders between ages 35 and 44.  Some 8 percent of new claims by men and 10 percent women occurred at these ages in 2011, versus four percent reported by the prior year’s study.   The greatest decline in claims occurred after age 55.

The study revealed that cancer remains the leading cause for new individual claims accounting for 61 percent of new claims.  Heart attacks accounted for 11 percent and stroke for 18 percent of new claims.

Researchers analyzed data for over 57,000 purchasers of individual critical illness insurance policies as well as claims reported by leading insurers for the time period January 1 to December 31, 2011. The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.  Free access to the organization’s online learning, marketing and sales center is offered to insurance and financial professionals.  For further information, visit the Website:  www.aacii.org/ or call (818) 597-3205.

Critical Illness Insurance Buyers Younger Than 45

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Roughly half (49%) of men and 46 percent of women who purchased individual critical illness insurance policies in 2011 were younger than age 45, according to the 2012 Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) and General Re Life Corporation.

Researchers analyzed data from 10 leading critical illness insurers, which accounted for over 57,200 purchasers of individual critical illness insurance policies made between January 1 and December 31, 2011.  “While the majority of critical illness insurance sales continue to be made in the worksite setting, sales to individuals are increasing as awareness grows,” explains Jesse Slome, AACII executive director.

According to the 2012 National Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study some18 percent of male buyers and 17 percent of female buyers were between the ages of 25 and 34.   Fewer than one in 10 buyers were age 25 or less and just over one in five buyers were age 55 or older.   This year’s study found that buying ages for men and women were more closely aligned compared to last year notes Stephen Rowley, Vice President for Gen Re.

Critical illness insurance pays a tax-free, lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness such as cancer, heart attack or stroke.  Sold in 54 countries worldwide, the first policies became available in the United States around 1996 and today over one million individuals have such protection in the U.S.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.   For further information, visit the Association’s Website or call (818) 597-3205.

Eat Extra Servings Of Fish Linked To Reduce Stroke Risk

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Adults who eat fish several times each week are slightly less likely to suffer a stroke.  The findings of a new study report the lowered risk compared to those who only eat a little or no fish at all. 

Researchers analyzed over a dozen studies.  Each study asked people how frequently they ate fish, then followed them for between four and 30 years to see who suffered a stroke. 

Fatty fish such as salmon and herring are especially high in omega-3s. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fatty fish in particular each week. 

Some 600,000 Americans will suffer their first stroke this year according to annual data published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “Stroke impacts the health of millions and results in both medical and long term care expenses,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the national trade groups.

Fish provides a beneficial package of nutrients, in particular the omega-3s, that explains the lower risk explains a Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologist whose research was included in the analysis. 

Smoking, drinking, being overweight and having high blood pressure and cholesterol are all linked to a higher risk of stroke.  Dr. Susanna Larsson and Dr. Nicola Orsini of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden wrote in the journal Stroke that omega-3 fatty acids in fish might lower stroke risk through their positive effects on blood pressure and cholesterol.

Vitamin D, selenium and certain types of proteins in fish may also have stroke-related benefits, the researchers added.  Data for the analysis came from close to 400,000 people age 30 to 103. The studies were done in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China. 

Eating three extra servings of fish each week was linked to a six-percent drop in stroke risk, Slome noted after reviewing the study.  That translates to one fewer stroke among a hundred people eating extra fish over a lifetime.  And the people in each study who ate the most fish were 12 percent less likely to have a stroke that those that ate the least. 

Fatty fish such as salmon and herring are especially high in omega-3s. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fatty fish in particular each week. 

Individuals interested in receiving a cost quote for critical illness insurance from a designated American Association for Critical Illness Insurance professional can complete the organization’s free quote request form accessible at http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org/free-quote/ or by calling the Association’s offices.

Those interested in learning more about long term care insurance cost can contact the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance or by calling the Association’s offices at 818-597-3227.

Family History Better Predictor of Heart Attack Than Stroke

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Family genetics may play more of a role in your risk of a heart attack than strokes. 

New research conducted at the University of Birmingham in England suggests that a family history of heart attack appears to be a stronger risk factor for heart attack than a family history of stroke is for stroke. 

Nearly 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year and about 600,000 will experience their first stroke according to a report from the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health-related data.  “Both stroke and heart attack are leading health conditions that can financially wipe out a family,” explains Jesse Slome, the association’s executive duirector. 

Researchers noted that their findings would be helpful to doctors as a means of predicting a patient’s risk of heart attack and stroke.   The scientists collected data on nearly 1,000 people who had heart attacks and 1,015 stroke survivors. 

Among those with heart disease, 30 percent had a parent with a heart attack and 21 percent had a sibling with a heart attack, the researchers found.  Seven percent had two or more siblings who suffered heart attacks, and 5 percent reported both parents had had heart attacks. 

On the other hand, 21 percent of those who suffered a stroke or transient ischemic attack, considered a minor stroke, had at least one parent with a stroke, and 8 percent had a brother or sister with a stroke. 

Two percent of the stroke survivors had two parents with strokes, while 14 percent had at least two siblings with a stroke, the researchers found.  When two parents had suffered a heart attack, the risk of heart attack increased six times.  If one parent suffered a heart attack, the risk was 1.5 times greater for their offspring.

Stroke risk did not change substantially based on parental stroke history, the authors said. 

“Individuals in their 40s and 50s should recognize that a family history of heart disease can be important information about future risk of having a heart attack,” Slome explains. “With greater risk comes a greater need to plan.”

Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study – Part 2

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

More than half (53%) of women purchasing individual critical illness insurance policies last year opted for coverage equal to $20,000 or less.  Among men, some 49 percent purchased that amount according to the 2011 Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) and Gen Re.

“The market for individual critical illness insurance sales is definitely consumers looking to secure a reasonably affordable amount of protection,” states Jesse Slome, executive director of the industry trade organization.  “Individuals recognize the value of buying enough protection to pay for one or two years worth of mortgage or rent payments or to pay costs not covered by their health insurance.”

According to the survey, 22 percent of male buyers and an equal percentage of female buyers purchased between $20,001 and $30,000 of protection.  The survey found that 13 percent of men and 11 percent of women purchased coverage equal to $50,001 or more.  

Critical illness insurance pays a lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness such as cancer, heart attack or stroke notes Barry Eagle, Vice President, Marketing for Gen Re LifeHealth a Berkshire Hathaway Company.   The current version of critical illness insurance policies became available in the United States in the mid 1990s and today over one million individuals have such protection.

Researchers analyzed data for over 20,500 purchasers of individual critical illness insurance policies made between January 1 and December 31, 2010. The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals. 

Free access to the organization’s online learning, marketing and sales center is offered to insurance and financial professionals.  For further information, visit the Website:  www.aacii.org/ or call (818) 597-3205.

Number of Americans with Diabetes Rises to Nearly 26 Million

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition, an estimated 79 million U.S. adults have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.   Prediabetes raises a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance <a href>http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org</a>.

Diabetes affects 8.3 percent of Americans of all ages, and 11.3 percent of adults aged 20 and older, according to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet for 2011. About 27 percent of those with diabetes—7 million Americans—do not know they have the disease. 

Prediabetes affects 35 percent of adults aged 20 and older.  In 2008, CDC estimated that 23.6 million Americans, or 7.8 percent of the population, had diabetes and another 57 million adults had prediabetes. The 2011 estimates have increased for several reasons:

More people are developing diabetes.

Many people are living longer with diabetes, which raises the total number of those with the disease. Better management of the disease is improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and reducing complications such as kidney failure and amputations.

Hemoglobin A1c is now used as a diagnostic test, and was therefore incorporated into calculations of national prevalence for the first time. The test, also called glycated hemoglobin, measures levels of blood glucose (sugar) over a period of two to three months. Because of this change, estimates of populations with diabetes and prediabetes in the 2011 fact sheet are not directly comparable to estimates in previous fact sheets.

In a study published last year, CDC projected that as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue. Type 2 diabetes, in which the body gradually loses its ability to use and produce insulin, accounts for 90 percent to 95 percent of diabetes cases. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, having diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes), a sedentary lifestyle, and race/ethnicity. Groups at higher risk for the disease are African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and some Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Half of Americans aged 65 and older have prediabetes, and nearly 27 percent have diabetes.  Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.  Diabetes costs $174 billion annually, including $116 billion in direct medical expenses.

Heart Disease And Stroke Costs Will Triple

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The cost of treating heart disease and stroke in the United States is expected to triple in the next 20 years, to $818 billion.

According to the American Heart Association this $545 billion increase in costs for treating heart disease and stroke is largely due to the aging of the population.

“The burden of heart disease and stroke on the U.S. health care system and American families will be substantial,” said Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

The projected increase in costs will be based on the current rate of heart disease adjusted for changes in the overall age of Americans and the anticipated racial mix of patients. 

Experts noted that these estimates do not take into account the additional costs for those who have more than one condition, or new treatments that might come along,  To curb this rise in costs, the panel said that effective prevention strategies are needed if we are to limit the growing burden of cardiovascular disease. 

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a news release that “unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments have contributed to a tidal wave of risk factors among many Americans. Early intervention and evidence-based public policies are absolute musts to significantly reduce alarming rates of obesity, hypertension, tobacco use and cholesterol levels.” 

Right now, 36.9 percent of Americans have some type of heart disease, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and other conditions. By 2030, that number will rise to 40.5 percent of the population, or about 116 million people, according to the report. 

The biggest increases are thought to be in stroke, up 24.9 percent, and heart failure, up 25 percent.

Between 2010 and 2030, the cost of caring for patients with heart disease will go from $273 billion to $818 billion, the panel predicted. 

In addition, heart disease will cost billions more in lost productivity, increasing from about $172 billion in 2010 to $276 billion in 2030. These losses include days missed from work or home tasks because of illness, plus lost earnings due to premature death. 

There are also a number of low-cost, high-value cardiovascular protective therapies that are available but are underutilized in routine clinical care that could also help to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease. 

These include keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control, not smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which means eating a healthy diet, getting exercise and keeping your weight down. These strategies have been proven to substantially reduce the risk of heart disease. 

For more information on affordable critical illness insurance protection which can provide a tax-free lump sum cash payment upon diagnosis of a heart attack or stroke, viasit the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance’s website <a href> http://www.crititcalillnessinsuranceinfo.org </a>.

Vitamin E May Add To Stroke Risk

Friday, November 5th, 2010

People taking vitamin E supplements may put themselves at a slightly increased risk for a hemorrhagic stroke.

According to a new report, an estimated 13 percent of the population takes vitamin E supplements.  Some studies have suggested that taking vitamin E can protect against heart disease, while others have found that, in high doses, it might increase the risk of death reports the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks medically-related news.

Vitamin E supplementation is not as safe as we may like to believe, noted one of the lead researchers with the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  Specifically, their findings reveal it appears to carry an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

While the risk is low translating into one additional hemorrhage per 1,250 persons taking vitamin E, widespread and uncontrolled use of vitamin E should be cautioned against the scientist added.

There are basically two types of stroke: one where blood flow to the brain is blocked, called an ischemic stroke, and one where vessels rupture and bleed into the brain, called a hemorrhagic stroke. Of the two, hemorrhagic strokes are more rare, but more serious, the researchers noted.

The research team looked at nine trials that included 118,756 patients. Although none of the trials found an overall risk for stroke associated with vitamin E, there was a difference in the risk of the type of stroke.

The researchers found there were 223 hemorrhagic strokes among the 50,334 people taking vitamin E, compared with 183 hemorrhagic strokes among the 50,414 people taking a placebo.

However, for the risk of ischemic stroke, vitamin E was actually mildly protective, reducing the risk of ischemic stroke 10 percent, the researchers found.

Neck Surgery Can Reduce Stroke Risk

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

A surgical procedure to widen carotid arteries that have become narrowed and restrict blood flow to the brain reduces the risk of stroke over a 10-year period.

According to British researchers the carotid artery supplies blood carrying oxygen to the head, so a procedure to widen it helps restore blood flow to the brain. However, the operation, called a carotid endarterectomy, has about a 3 percent risk of causing an immediate stroke, the researchers cautioned.

For some elderly patients, this risk may outweigh any long-term benefit. But older, healthy patients will likely benefit from the procedure, the study authors noted.

Recent studies suggest that the rate of stroke in patients with [narrowed carotid arteries without symptoms] is lower than the rates found in this trial, according to the highlighted report posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the trade group.

Although the study found the rate of stroke in patients without a carotid endarterectomy to be 1.8 percent a year over a 10-year period, the rates are thought to be about 1 percent a year, but may be as low as around 0.5 percent a year.

The lower rates of stroke, medical reserachers report, are thought to be due to advances in medical treatment such as blood pressure control, antiplatelet drugs and more widespread use of statins.

The report is published in the Sept. 25 issue of The Lancet.

In the Asymptomatic Carotid Surgery Trial, a research team led by Dr. Alison Halliday of the John Radcliffe Hospital, the University of Oxford, randomly assigned 3,120 patients with narrowed carotid arteries to surgery or to no surgery until their condition required it.

Some of the patients originally assigned to the “no surgery” group did undergo the operation during the study, the researchers noted.

A total of 1,979 operations were performed. Among these the risk of stroke within 30 days was 3 percent, including 26 minor and 34 disabling or fatal strokes, Halliday’s team reported.

Over an average of five years of follow-up, 4.1 percent of those who underwent the procedure suffered a stroke, compared with 10 percent of those who did not have the operation.

At 10 years, 10.8 percent of those who had the operation had suffered a stroke, compared with 16.9 percent of those who were not operated on, the researchers found.

In addition, over the years of the study, patients in both groups were also taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Even these medications did not affect the benefit of the surgery, the researchers said.

“This trial took more than 15 years to complete, because we wanted to know about the long-term effects of surgery,” Halliday said in a statement.

“The finding that successful carotid artery surgery can substantially reduce the stroke risk for many years is remarkable, because it means that most of the risk of stroke over the next five years in patients with a narrowed carotid artery is caused by that single carotid lesion. The definite benefits that we have found will be of practical value to doctors and patients deciding in the future whether to take the immediate risk of having such surgery,” she said.

The rates of stroke were reduced from about 2.2 percent a year to 1.4 percent a year over five years and from 1.8 percent a year to 1.3 percent a year over 10 years, he said.

Stroke Risk Not Cut By Folic Acid Supplements

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Their findings are based on a review of clinical trials involving more than 39,000 participants.  Prior studies experts explain have linked low blood levels of a chemical lowered by folic acid to lower rates of stroke.  Stroke is one of the three major illnesses impacting older individuals according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national educational organization.

Researchers at the UCLA Stroke Center in Los Angeles identified 13 well-designed clinical trials of folic acid and stroke. Participants in all the trials had been diagnosed with conditions such as kidney and heart disease, as well as stroke.

There were 784 strokes among 20,415 participants taking folic acid, compared to 791 strokes reported among 18,590 people who did not take the supplements.

The analysis which was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, settles the question about whether folic acid supplementation leads to a major reduction in stroke.  “The answer is ‘no,’” the lead researcher reports.

Still, the researchers suggest more research into folic acid and stroke, particularly for men and those in the earliest stages of heart disease. Data from both of those groups suggested there might be an effect, although researchers could not determine whether or not that was due to chance.

Those potential benefits appeared in trials carried out in countries whose food supplies were not fortified with folic acid. In the U.S., the benefits of folic acid supplementation may have already been achieved through food fortification. In an effort to reduce the birth defect spina bifida, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required the addition of folic acid to all enriched cereal-grain foods starting in 1998.

Being Overweight Increases Stroke Risk

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Being overweight puts an individual at significantly higher risk of ischemic stroke, with a serious possibility of permanent disability and reduced life expectancy.

Ischemic strokes occur when blood vessels supplying the brain are blocked. Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain, are less common.  Stroke is a leading critical illness according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization based in Los Angeles, California.

While being overweight increases a person’s likelihood of having stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, the question of whether being overweight or obese directly ups stroke risk has not been answered adequately; evidence from past research has been controversial.

Researchers examined medical literature for studies with at least four years of follow-up that looked at stroke risk based on body mass index, or BMI, a standard measure of weight in relation to height used to gauge how fat or thin a person is. They found 25 studies including 2,274,961 people, who had a total of 30,757 strokes.

People who were overweight were 22 percent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than normal weight people, while the risk for obese people was 64 percent higher, the researchers found. Hemorrhagic stroke risk wasn’t higher for overweight people, but it was 24 percent higher for obese people.

A person’s risk of having a stroke within the next 10 years can be estimated based on their gender, blood pressure, whether or not they smoke, and whether or not they have diabetes.

For example, a 62-year-old man whose systolic blood pressure (the top number) is 125, doesn’t smoke, and does not have diabetes or other cardiovascular problems, would have a 4 percent risk of stroke over the following decade; if the same man had a systolic blood pressure of 160 (140 and above is too high) and wasn’t receiving treatment for high blood pressure, his risk of stroke within the next 10 years would be 15 percent.

Obesity would raise the risk of stroke to nearly 6 percent for the man with normal blood pressure, and to 25 percent for the man with untreated high blood pressure.

Chocolate May Make Some Strokes Less Likely

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Unfortunately for chocolate fans, the same research found that chocolate does not appear to have a protective benefit for the most common type of stroke.

People who have a stroke have either an ischemic or a hemorrhagic stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked, either partially or completely. This type of stroke accounts for about 80 percent of all strokes. 

In the context of an appropriate intake, eating small amounts of cocoa could be beneficial, the researchers noted.  The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s conference on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention in San Francisco. 

The benefit attributed to cocoa stems from substances it contains known as flavonoids, which are believed to help protect against certain cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and blood clotting. 

In the study, the researchers reviewed data from 4,369 middle-age French women, none of whom had any evidence of heart disease at the start of the study in 1993. The women’s average body-mass index was 23, a number that’s considered normal weight. 

In the next 12 years, 493 of the women were diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular disease: 200 had heart attacks and 293 had a stroke. Of the strokes, 189 were ischemic and 91 were hemorrhagic.

After adjusting the data to account for known cardiovascular disease risk factors — such as smoking, physical activity, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and diabetes — the researchers found no statistically significant association in the risk for cardiovascular disease between the highest levels of cocoa consumption and the lowest.

Stroke Incidence Rises Significantly Among Younger Americans

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

A new report presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference noted that the average age of stroke patients in 2005 was nearly three years younger than the average age of stroke patients in 1993-1994.

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, this represents a significant decrease as the percentage of people 20 to 45 having a stroke was up to 7.3 percent in 2005 from 4.5 percent in 1993-1994.  Stroke is one of the three most frequently incurred critical illness.  Cancer and heart disease are the other two impacting millions of Amerucans yearly.

Stroke has traditionally been considered a disease of old age.  Medical experts report that the findings are of great public health significance because of the potential for greater lifetime burden of disability among younger patients.

Researchers examined data from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, which includes about 1.3 million people. They report that the trend is likely occurring throughout the United States because the higher prevalence of risk factors such as obesity and diabetes seen in the young here are also seen throughout the country.

The study recorded the age of people hospitalized for their first-ever stroke from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1994, then compared it to calendar years 1999 and 2005.

In 1993-94, the average age of first stroke was 71.3 years old. The average age dropped to 70.9 in 1999 and was down to 68.4 by 2005.

Researchers also found racial differences in stroke incidence. For blacks, the incidence of strokes among those over age 85 dropped significantly by 2005. For whites, the incidence decreased significantly starting at age 65 by 2005.

Coffee Drinking Reduces Risk Of Stroke

Friday, February 26th, 2010

According to a new study self-reported coffee consumption was inversely related to stroke risk.  The study followed 23,000 men and women.  They were followed for an average of 12 years found by researchers at the University of Cambridge in England.

Overall, people who reported any intake of coffee had a 27 percent lower risk of stroke than those who said they never drank java, the researchers reported. Drinking more coffee was not associated with a greater reduction in stroke risk. 

The reduced risk was irrespective of the type of coffee consumed, caffeinated, decaffeinated, instant or ground.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the educational organization, prior studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes — a major risk factor for stroke — and also with a reduced risk of heart disease. 

Those studies generally have not been carried out with rigorous methods, researchers note.  Typically, they rely on self-reports, how much coffee you say you drink.  But what might be two cups for me might be an entirely different two cups for you. 

So, there are no official suggestions that people drink coffee to lower their risk of stroke. There has been no study designed to produce the kind of evidence needed to make recommendations, they noted.

Single Men Face 64% Greater Risk Of Stroke

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

According to a new Israeli study when age and known stroke risk factors such as obesity, smoking and diabetes were included in the analysis, single men had a 64 percent higher risk of fatal stroke than married men. 

The study, which tracked more than 10,000 civil servants and municipal workers from 1963 to 1997, found that 8.4 percent of the single men died of strokes, compared to 7.1 percent of the married men. 

According to the medical researchers, the 3.6 percent of men who reported dissatisfaction with marriage also had a 64 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke, compared to those who considered their marriages to be very successful. 

“Clearly stroke is one of the three major critical illness that threaten Americans,” notes Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “It’s clear that a long, happy relationship is associated with a higher likelihood of taking the recommended measures against the known stroke risk factors.” 

Most of the men (86 percent) were immigrants, some of whom arrived before the state of Israel was created, one researcher noted.  A not inconsiderable proportion of these men had migrated from states of personal persecution and economic hardship and it is not known whether this had something to do with the finding.

Does Eating Chocolate Lower Stroke Risk

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Researchers presenting at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto report another study found that eating chocolate may lower the risk of death after suffering a stroke.

The analysis involved reviewing three studies on chocolate and stroke.  More research is needed to determine whether chocolate truly lowers stroke risk, or whether healthier people are simply more likely to eat chocolate than others reported one of the experts from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks research and data pertaining to stroke and other critical illnesses, chocolate is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which may have a protective effect against stroke.  More research is needed their director notes.

The first study found that 44,489 people who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who ate no chocolate. The second study found that 1,169 people who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week were 46 percent less likely to die following a stroke than people who did not eat chocolate. 

The researchers found only one additional relevant study in their search of all the available research. That study found no link between eating chocolate and risk of stroke or death.

Poor Mental Functioning Could Predict Stroke

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Researchers found that older men who were not diagnosed as having dementia but who did poorly on a test of mental function had a greatly increased risk for stroke. 

 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke each each.  “Some one in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds,” explains Jesse Slome, the non-profit educational organization’s director.

 

 Medical researchers at Uppsala University published theuir findings yesterday Neurology.  There are indications that the test results could show the chances of survival for someone who has a stroke, they noted.

 

The research involved nearly 1,000  Swedish men, who averaged 70 years old at the start of the study. None had a history of stroke. They were given three widely used tests of mental function.  Over the next 13 years, 166 of the men had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), a brief interruption of blood flow to the brain.

 

The 25 percent of men who performed worst on the B test were three times more likely to have a stroke or a TIA than the 25 percent of the men with the highest scores, the study found.  The results support the idea that cognitive decline, regardless of whether a person has dementia, may predict risk of stroke, researchers explained. 

The Swedish study adds to the list of unconventional factors linked to the risk for stroke.  One recent study of more than 13,000 Americans found an association with obesity, measured by either body-mass index or waist circumference. In some cases, the most obese individuals were more than three times as likely to have a stroke as the leanest.

Early EKG Improves Survival Odds From Heart Attack

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The research found that these people often were able to bypass the emergency room and go directly to the cardiac catheterization laboratory for treatment with what’s commonly known as an angioplasty. 

Findings published in the January issue of Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions report those given an EKG by paramedics were treated 60 minutes, on average, after reaching the hospital, compared with 91 minutes for people who did not have an EKG before arriving at the hospital. 

Research has shown that rapid angioplasty treatment reduces the chances of dying within the next year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks informatioon on surving cancer, heart attacks or stroke, the three primary critical illnesses. 

For the study, the researchers examined medical records for cardiac patients taken to three hospitals in Southeast Michigan for five years to 2008.   Of those who did not have an EKG done before arrival, 2 percent died in the hospital. None of the patients who were given pre-arrival EKGs died in the hospital, the study reported.

As Obesity Increases, So Does Stroke Risk

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Researchers followed over 13,500 middle-aged Americans for 19 years to determine incraesed stroke risk associated with several measures of obesity, emphasizing body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight and height, but also such measures as waist circumference.

Their findings published online in Stroke found that the risk of stroke was increased with each measure of obesity.   The degree of risk varied by sex and ethnic group. For example, people in the highest BMI category had a 1.43 to 2.12 times higher risk for stroke, with variations by race and sex. The risk ratios ranged from 1.65 to 3.19 when obesity was measured by waist circumference and from 1.69 to 2.55 when the ratio of waist to hip was used.

“Obesity contributes to both diabetes and hypertension [high blood pressure], which are associated with stroke and at an earlier age,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Each year about 600,000 people experience their first stroke according to the organization’s annual statistical update.

The risk was especially high for blacks, the study found. For example, the incidence of stroke was 1.2 per 1,000 person-years for white women and 4.3 per 1,000 person-years for black women. In the highest BMI category, rates ranged from 2.2 for white women to 8.0 for black men.

That higher incidence of stroke for blacks has been found in many previous studies, and it also is seen in Asians, Yatsuya said. The reason is unknown, but there may be a genetic difference, the medical experts noted.

The increased risk linked to weight was evident in every ethnic group, according to the researchers.  Men and women in the highest obesity category had about double the risk for stroke as did those in the lowest category.  Obesity appears to act by increasing the incidence of high blood pressure and diabetes, two major risk factors for stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

More Proof That Statins Cut Stroke Risk

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with white adults. 

Researchers found that much of the benefit from statins such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor appears tied to the drugs’ lowering of blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.  Their review of data from clinical trials including almost 267,000 participants showed an overall 12 percent reduction in stroke incidence among those taking statins, with each 1 percent reduction in total cholesterol predicting a 0.8 percent relative risk reduction of stroke. 

Medical experts note that the report contains hints that the reduction of stroke risk is not entirely explained by the cholesterol-lowering effect of statins.  They noted that there are many possible explanations for the reduction in stroke risk observed in actively treated patients, and one of those is a reduction of inflammation with statin therapy. 

There was no debate about the value of statin therapy in reducing other cardiovascular risks in people with high LDL levels. The Italian analysis found more benefits from statins than from other cholesterol-lowering regimens. 

The most gratifying thing reported by this meta-analysis is that statins among all lipid-lowering therapies appear to be the most effective, noted an expert from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The use of statin therapy is particularly important among people who have had a stroke. They are being used more aggressively in people who have had a stroke in an attempt to prevent another. 

At least one trial has shown a significant reduction in second strokes among people taking statins.  The report, published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was led by physicians at G. d’Annunzio University in Chieti, Italy.

New Stroke Therapy May Restore Function

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Researchers at University of California, Irvine, have found that a protein naturally occurring in humans restores motor function in rats after a stroke. Administered directly to the brain, the protein restores 99 percent of lost movement; if it’s given through the nose, 70 percent of lost movement is regained. Untreated rats improve by only 30 percent. 

Presently no drugs exist that will help a stroke after a few days.  Medical experts noted that the findings offer optimism that there may be therapies that can repair damage to a significant degree long after the stroke.  The studies chronicle the success of a small protein called transforming growth factor alpha, which plays critical tissue-forming and developmental roles in humans from just after conception through birth and into old age.

Each year about 600,000 Americans have their first stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the country,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the non-profit organization.  “Most people survive but the financial and emotional costs can be devastating to families.” 

TGF alpha has been studied for two decades in other organ systems but never before has been shown to reverse the symptoms of a stroke. No lasting side effects were observed.  

When put inside a cylinder, healthy rats will jump up with both front legs, but stroke-impaired rats will use just one leg, favoring the injured side. When given a choice of directions to walk, impaired rats will move toward their good side. 

One month after the study rats suffered an induced stroke (equal to about a year for humans), some were injected with TGF alpha. Within a month, they had regained nearly all their motor function, hopping up with both legs in the cylinder exercise and not favoring a side in the directional test. Rats that did not receive treatment improved just 30 percent.

Weekend Stroke Victims Receive More Aggressive Treatment

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

January 13, 2010.  Stroke victims brought to a hospital on a weekend are more likely to receive the powerful clot-dissolving drug tPA than those who arrive on a weekday.

Researchers conducted the study following a report showing that aggressive treatment for heart attacks was more likely to be given during the week rather than the weekend.

The heart attack study sent researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina.Kazley searching through the records of almost 79,000 people admitted to Virginia hospitals between 1998 and 2006 with ischemic strokes, in which a clot blocks a brain blood vessel.

The research team found that relatively few patients received tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which works quickly to break up clots. In fact, only 543 of the 58,378 people admitted on weekdays got the drug, compared to 229 of the 20,279 admitted on weekends. The numbers show that the weekend stroke victims were 20 percent more likely to be given tPA than weekday arrivals.

The findings published in the January issue of the Archives of Neurology explained that because there are fewer elective procedures on weekends, patients have better access to expertise and better access to diagnostic technology such as CT [computed tomography] scanners. They are also more likely to present at an earlier time, since they are less likely to have to battle traffic to get to the hospital.

Despite the higher level of tPA treatment on weekends, no statistical significance in the death rates of the two groups was seen in the study. Only about one percent of patients who got the treatment, and at those low numbers it is very difficult to find a significant difference.

“It is vital for all adults to understand the symptoms of a stroke vital to getting treatment quickly,” explains jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.   Stroke symptoms can include a sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, vision trouble, dizziness and headache.

Study Reveals Risk Of Having A Critical Illness Before Age 65

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

 A 25-year-old male non-smoker has a 24 percent chance of having a critical illness (cancer, heart attack or stroke) prior to turning age 65.   The same-aged male who smokes has a 49 percent chance according to the first National Critical Illness Risk Assessment Study published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

“Cancer, heart attacks and strokes happen at all ages and most people are not prepared for either the emotional or financial cost,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the industry trade organization.  “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses and 78 percent of those filing for bankruptcy had health insurance when they were first diagnosed.”

The national critical illness risk assessment prepared by Milliman, Inc., a leading actuarial firm, reveals the likelihood of incurring a critical illness for men and women at different ages up to age 55.  According to the study’s findings, women face less risk than men at all ages.  Non-smoking women are at significantly less risk than their male smoking counterparts.  While nearly half (49 percent) of 35-year-old male tobacco users will incur a critical illness before age 65, only 35 percent of female smokers will according to the report. 

REPORTERS:  If you would like the complete finding of the study with breakdown by ages, please call the Association at (818) 597-3205 or E-mail Jesse Slome at mailto:jslome @ aaltci.org

The study reveals that 17 percent of non-smoking men and 36 percent of male smokers who reach the age of 55 without having a critical illness will be diagnosed with one prior to turning age 65.  For women who reach age 55, some 12 percent of non-smokers and 23 percent of smokers will face a critical illness before reaching age 65.

INSURANCE PROFESSIONALS:  The complete findings are available to Association members.  Click here for membership information.

“Surviving a critical illness is likely today as a result of advances in emergency treatment and medical care,” states Slome.  “Survival comes with a high cost even for those with health insurance which often is accompanied by co-pays, high deductibles and exclusions for various new treatments.”   Michelle Dyke, actuary with Milliman, adds, “there are substantial non-medical expenses associated with battling a critical illness including travel expenses to see specialists and lost wages that health insurance does not cover.”

Critical illness insurance pays a tax-free, lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness.  The first policies became available in the United States in 1996 and today some 600,000 individuals have such protection.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.  The organization is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.

Increased Diabetes Risk For Those Who Quit Smoking

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Researchers at Johns Hopkins note that smoking is a well-known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.  New research points out that elevated diabetes risk is related to the extra pounds people typically put on after renouncing cigarettes. 

Type 2 diabetes is a common disease that interferes with the body’s ability to properly use sugar, and to regulate and properly use insulin, a substance produced by the pancreas that normally lowers blood sugar during and after eating.

“No one should use the study’s results as an excuse to keep smoking, which is also a risk factor for lung disease, heart disease, strokes and many types of cancer,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

The study which was published in the January 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine reported that people who quit smoking have a 70 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first six years without cigarettes as compared to people who never smoked. 

The risks were highest in the first three years after quitting and returned to normal after 10 years. Among those who continued smoking over that period, the risk was lower, but the chance of developing diabetes was still 30 percent higher compared with those who never smoked. 

The study comprised nearly 11,000 middle-aged adults who did not yet have diabetes from 1987 to 1989. The patients were followed for up to 17 years and data about diabetes status, glucose levels, weight and more were collected at regular intervals. 

According to the study, those who smoked the most and those who gained the most weight had the highest likelihood for developing diabetes after they quit. On average, over the first three years of the study, quitters gained about 8.4 pounds and saw their waist circumferences grow by approximately 1.25 inches.

Many Stroke Survivors Don’t Take Lifesaving Meds

Monday, December 14th, 2009

According to research, about 19 percent of patients didn’t take prescribed blood thinners.  Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 143,579 people die each year from stroke in the United States and stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.   Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55 the Association notes.

Ischemic stroke is caused by blocked blood flow in the brain. Several types of medications can reduce the risk of another ischemic stroke. These include blood thinners – also known as antithrombotic medications, of which aspirin is the most common.

This seven-year study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, examined 4,168 ischemic stroke survivors.  Researchers found that about 19 percent of patients didn’t take blood thinners. Men, older patients and non-Hispanic patients were more likely to take blood thinners.

 

The study will be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

First National Critical Illness Insurance Study Examines U.S. Buyers

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Nearly half of individuals purchasing critical illness insurance protection were under age 45 according to the first national study of buyers conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

The industry trade group released the findings of a study that reveals one third (34%) of purchasers were between ages 45 and 54 and the majority (87%) purchased $50,000 or less in benefits.  The study examined sales data for over 130,000 individual and voluntary worksite policies and certificates issued. 

“Critical illness insurance is growing in acceptance as consumers understand the risk and financial exposure resulting from cancer, a heart attack or stroke,” explains Jesse Slome, the organization’s executive director.   First introduced in the United States in 1996, some 600,000 individuals have purchased critical illness coverage available from about 20 insurance companies.             

Nearly a quarter (24%) of individual buyers opted for coverage of less than $20,000 according to the study’s findings.  For those purchasing in the worksite setting, some 65 percent chose benefits of $20,000 or less.              

The vast majority of purchasers do so prior to turning age 55.  Among those purchasing individual critical illness insurance policies, 20 percent were under age 35; 27 percent were between ages 35 and 44 and 34 percent were between 45 and 54.  Buyers purchasing coverage in the workplace were about the same age according to the Association report.  Policies providing a $10,000 benefit for a 40 year old can range from $150 to $300-per-year. 

Individual buyers tended to be male (52% versus 48% female) while those purchasing in the workplace were more likely to be female (59% versus 41% male). 

“We anticipate the market for critical illness insurance products will increase in the years ahead,” predicts Slome.  The Los Angeles-based association will undertake an aggressive consumer awareness campaign in 2010 to build an understanding of the benefits of the protection that is popular outside of the United States.  “Every year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with a critical illness and the vast majority survive,” Slome explains.  “The financial cost even for those with health insurance can be devastating and one of the leading reasons 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy even before the current economic crisis.”  Critical illness insurance policies range in cost based on the age, sex and use of tobacco products.  A policy providing a $10,000 cash benefit can range from about $150 a year to $400 a year experts explain.

The full study results can be viewed online: Go to: <a href>http://www.aacii.org</a>.

Stroke Risk Highest For Those Born In South

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

According to a new report in Neurology reveals that people born in the North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama show a consistently higher incidence of stroke compared to those born elsewhere.  Each year about 600,000 people experience their first stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds. 

The higher stroke incidence in those seven states has been recognized for years.  Researchers , at the Harvard School of Public Health’s division of society, human development and health noted that the reason is unclear. 

Researchers studied data from 1980, 1990 and 2000 U.S. national death records for people aged 30 to 80 who were born and lived in 49 states. They calculated stroke death rates by linking the data to U.S. census information. 

The findings revealed that white people who were born and lived their adult lives in what is often referred to as “the stroke belt” were 45 percent more likely to die of a stroke in the 1980 group, 29 percent more likely in the 1990 group and 34 percent more likely in the 2000 group than those who were born and lived outside the seven Southern states. 

The findings were comparable for blacks: 55 percent, 47 percent and 34 percent higher risk for the respective groups.  Among whites who moved to the stroke belt as adults, the risk was 11 percent greater, according to the 2000 data, and 20 percent higher for those who were born in the stroke belt but later lived elsewhere. 

The higher rate was attributed to multiple factors such as genetics, environmental toxins and learned behavior.  They noted social environment that dietary habits and access to medical care may result in some element of socioeconomic risk.

Ginkgo Won’t Prevent Heart Attack Or Stroke in Elderly

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Researchers report that the herbal supplement may help ward off peripheral artery disease.  According to the findings of a new study, the popular herbal remedy might help prevent the leg-circulation problem known as peripheral artery disease.  

Ginkgo contains nutrients called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine, and are believed to offer some protection against cardiovascular events, according to the researchers.   The supplement, increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, has been touted to improve memory, and to prevent dementia, heart disease and stroke. 

Reserachers at the University of Pittsburgh found that ginkgo had no benefit in preventing heart attack or stroke.  Consistent with observations of researchers in Europe, the medical experts noted that ginkgo appeared to have some benefit in preventing peripheral vascular disease.

Last year the same University of Pittsburgh team reported that ginkgo biloba had no effect on preventing dementia.  For their latest study, reearchers randomly assigned 3,069 patients to 120 milligrams of highly purified ginkgo biloba or placebo, twice a day as part of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study.

Over the six years of the trial, 385 participants died, 164 had heart attacks, 151 had strokes, 73 had mini-strokes (“transient ischemic attacks”) and 207 had chest pain, the researchers found.  There was no significant difference between those taking ginkgo or placebo for any of these outcomes, the study reports.

However, among the 35 people who were treated for peripheral artery disease, 23 received placebo and 12 were taking ginkgo — a statistically significance difference, the researchers noted.  About 8 million Americans have peripheral artery disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Peripheral artery disease typically affects the arteries in the pelvis and legs. Symptoms include cramping and pain or tiredness in the hip muscles and legs when walking or climbing stairs, although not everyone who has PAD is symptomatic. The pain usually subsides during rest.

Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Older Men, Not Women

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

New research examined over 3,000 men and women, average age 69, who were followed for about nine years.  During that time, there were 238 strokes among the participants. At the start of the study, 20 percent of the participants said they did regular moderate-to-high intensity exercise such as jogging, swimming or tennis.  Some 41 percent said they did no physical activity. 

Men who did moderate-to-high intensity exercise were 63 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who didn’t exercise. Over five years, the baseline risk of ischemic stroke which is the leading type of stroke for all study participants was 4.3 percent; 2.7 percent for those who did moderate-to-high intensity exercise and 4.6 percent for those who didn’t exercise. 

The study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia appears in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Neurology.  Taking part in moderate-to-heavy intensity physical activity may be an important factor for preventing stroke, noted the study’s author. 

A large percentage of the participants were not taking part in any physical activities. This may be true of many elderly people who live in cities. Identifying ways to improve physical activity among these people may be a key goal for public health.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the third leading cause of death according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  This year some 600,000 Americans will suffer their first stroke.

Migraine Increases Likelihood Of Stroke

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off by plaque accumulation or a blood clot.

In astudy presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed the findings of 21 studies that included a total of 622,381 men and women, aged 18 to 70, in Europe and North America.

Those with migraines were 2.3 times more likely than people without migraines to suffer ischemic stroke. The risk was 2.5 times higher for migraine sufferers who experienced aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines and blurred vision), and for women experiencing aura, 2.9 times higher.

The findings reinforce the link between migraine and stroke and also correct some discrepancies in previous analyses that yielded mixed results, according to Hopkins cardiologist and senior study investigator Dr. Saman Nazarian.

Nazarian said nearly 1,800 articles have been written about the relationship between migraine and stroke, but the Hopkins review is believed to be the largest of its kind and was more selective, including only studies that used similar designs and groups of people.

“Identifying people at highest risk is crucial to preventing disabling strokes. Based on this data, physicians should consider addressing stroke risk factors in patients with a history or signs of light flashes and blurry vision associated with severe headaches,” Nazarian said in a Hopkins news release.

There are a number of migraine prevention and treatment options, including smoking cessation, taking medications to lower blood pressure or taking blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin, Nazarian added. For women with migraines, additional options include discontinuing use of birth control pills or stopping hormone replacement therapy.

For information on critical illness insurance visit the website of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance where you can obtain free, no obligation costs for this important protection.

Low Vitamin D Linked To Heart, Stroke Deaths

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 

A new study reports that adults with lower, versus higher, vitamin D levels in their blood may be more likely to die from heart disease or stroke.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin mostly obtained from direct sunlight exposure, but also found in foods and multivitamins.  Researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland compared blood levels of vitamin D and deaths from heart disease or stroke over time in several thousand men and 3,402 women.

Participants were just over 49 years old on average at the beginning of the research and had no indicators of cardiovascular disease.  During follow-up of about 27 years on average, 640 of the participants (358 men) died from heart disease and another 293 (122 men) died from stroke.

Compared with participants’ with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest had 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, the researchers noted.  There was a “particularly striking association” between vitamin D levels and stroke deaths, they explain.  Those having the lowest vitamin D seemed to confer “twice the risk,” compared with those having the highest vitamin D.

Allowing for age, gender, and other demographic factors, plus alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, and season in which vitamin D levels were obtained did not significantly alter these associations.  In this study, vitamin D levels were “substantially lower” than levels thought to be sufficient, and “somewhat lower” than those reported in previous studies in other European and American populations.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the non-profit industry organization, some 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year.  From 1995 to 2005, the death rate from coronary heart disease declined 34 percent.  The study findings were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Study: Migraine With Aura Can Double Stroke Risk

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Medical researchers advise that they should stop smoking and using birth control pills because new findings reveal they may increase their risk of stroke. 

People who suffer migraine headaches with aura experience visual disturbances before or during the migraine.  For these individuals, the medical scientists found that the risk for ischemic stroke is doubled. Being female, under 45, smoking and using oral contraceptives that contain estrogen added to the risk.   Studies were conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

 According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national organization that tracks data on strokesm heart attacks and cancer, an ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel. The connection between migraine and stroke was already suspected executives note. What was unknown was the extent of risk and who is most at risk. 

Migraine headaches affect up to 20 percent of the U.S. population. Women are up to four times more likely than men to get migraines, and as many as one third also experience an aura before or during a migraine.

Stroke Treatment Allows A Third More Time

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Previously published findings indicated that tPA treatment led to better outcomes than placebo in stroke patients treated from three hours to 4.5 hours post-stroke.

In this new study, medical researchers at the University of Heidelberg, and colleagues conducted a secondary analysis of data using different endpoints. They focused on the efficacy and safety of tPA treatment and also looked for any factors or patient subgroups that might affect treatment outcome.

The study included patients who received alteplase from three hours to 4.5 hours after a stroke, and patients who received a placebo. The results showed a clear benefit from treatment with alteplase in all types of patients, including those younger and older than 65 years, men and women, and those with or without a history of diabetes, stroke or high blood pressure.

The study was released online in advance of publication in the December print issue of The Lancet.

Shingles Raises Risk Of Stroke In Adults

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

According to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association the risk was even greater when the infection involved the eyes.  Every 40 seconds someone in America has a stroke, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus; the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body. Usually the virus doesn’t cause problems, but it can reappear years later, causing shingles. 

Studies have shown that people with herpes zoster infection are more likely to develop stroke. The researchers noted that this is the first study to demonstrate the actual risk of stroke following herpes zoster infection. 

Medical experts at the Taipei Medical University Hospital studied some 8,000 patients 18 years and older who received shingles treatment between 1997 and 2001. These people were matched by age and gender with 23,280 adults who weren’t treated for shingles (controls). 

During the one-year follow-up, 133 shingles patients (about 1.7 percent) and 306 of the controls (about 1.3 percent) had strokes.   The researchers noted that people treated for a shingles infection were 31 percent more likely to have a stroke, compared with patients without a shingles infection. 

Patients with shingles infections that involved the skin around the eye and the eye itself were 4.28 times more likely to have a stroke than patients without shingles.  Shingles patients were 31 percent more likely to develop an ischemic stroke during the one-year follow-up than those without shingles. 

Ischemic strokes, which are caused by the blockage of an artery, account for 87 percent of the new or recurrent strokes that strike some 800,000 Americans yearly, Jesse Slome, executive director of the critical illness insurance trade group. 

Shingles usually starts as a rash on one side of the face or body. The rash starts as blisters that scab after three to five days and usually clears within two to four weeks. There is often pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash develops.

Drug Duo May Reduce Heart Attack And Strokes

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

A combination of cholesterol and blood pressure medicine can cut the incidence of attacks by up to 60 percent according to a new study.

According to Kaiser Permanente researchers, an inexpensive combination of one drug used to lower cholesterol and another medication used to lower blood pressure can reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes by as much as 60 percent.

“An American suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization. “Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke, making these two of the most common critical illnesses afflicting individuals.”

Giving the drugs to nearly 70,000 people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes prevented an estimated 1,271 heart attacks and strokes in one year, Dr. James Dudl of Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute and his colleagues reported in the American Journal of Managed Care.

According to reports, the inspiration for the study resulted from the Archimedes Model, a sophisticated computer simulation of the human body that predicted that lowering blood pressure and cholesterol simultaneously in those at the highest risk for cardiovascular problems. The Model predicted that the combination could reduce the incidence by 71 percent. The report noted that no study had been performed to test the prediction.

The Kaiser team chose two generic drugs, lovastatin for cholesterol and lisinopril for blood pressure, and offered them to 170,000 members of their managed-care programs in Northern and Southern California who suffered from heart disease or diabetes.

Some of the patients were already taking one of the drugs, but none of those selected was taking both. About 75 percent were also taking daily aspirin, but the researchers did not include aspirin in the protocol because they had no way to monitor usage.

They began the program in 2004 with nearly 70,000 patients. The team monitored compliance for two years by checking whether and how often patients refilled their prescriptions, then monitored health effects in the third year through the patients’ health records.

Some 47,268 patients had what the team termed “low exposure” to the drugs, taking them less than half the time. Their risk of hospitalization for heart attack or stroke was lowered by 15 events per 1,000 person-years, and an estimated 726 events were prevented.

Mini-Stroke Precedes 1 In 8 Strokes

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

For the study published in the Sept. 29 issue of Neurology, researchers found that, of the 16,409 people diagnosed with stroke over a four-year period, 2,032 — or 12.4 percent of them — had a TIA in the weeks before the stroke.

As a result, the medical experts concluded that a TIA does not have enough predictive power to warrant intensive preventive measures.

A TIA, which some refer to as a mini-stroke, occurs when a clot briefly blocks a brain artery. Symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke — sudden onset of weakness or numbness in an arm or leg, loss of vision or double vision, speech difficulty, dizziness, loss of balance — but they go away, often in a few minutes. Many people ignore the symptoms, but they are clear signs of possible trouble.

 

Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center. But he disagrees with the Canadian report’s  interpretation of the predictive importance of TIAs.  “They predict 10 to 15 percent of strokes,” Goldstein said. “This is not a small number, so it is an opportunity to prevent stroke that you don’t want to miss when it happens.”

Some medical experts noted that better predictive tools are available.  Many prefers carotid ultrasound, an inexpensive way to listen to blood flow in the main artery to the brain.

SOURCES: Daniel G. Hackam, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, neurology, clinical pharmacology and epidemiology/biostatistics, Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre, Robarts Research Institute, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; Larry B. Goldstein, M.D., director, Duke Stroke Center, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Sept. 29, 2009, Neurology

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Childhood Stroke More Common

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Medical experts note that pediatric strokes are rare.  A new estimate puts its incidence at only 2.4 strokes per 100,000 person-years. But the study, reported in the September 17 online issue of Stroke, also cites five previous studies in which the estimated incidence ranged from .54 to 1.2 per 100,000 children per year.

Medical researchers at the Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center at the University of California, San Francisco, Children’s Hospital examined data on 2.3 million children up to the age of 19 who were enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente managed-care plan in northern California from 1993 to 2003.

They searched for stroke cases listed by diagnostic code for billing purposes and also for reports indicating strokes in radiological studies, including computed tomography and MRI. The radiology reports yielded a higher incidence of stroke.

The concept that children simply don’t have strokes is widely prevalent, one of the lead researchers noted.

This new comparison of the two methods of identifying a pediatric stroke found that radiological evidence was much more sensitive than the billing code. The radiology method was far more sensitive (83 percent) than the billing code method (39 percent.)

SOURCES: Heather J. Fullerton, M.D., director, Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center, University of California, San Francisco, Children’s Hospital; E. Steve Roach, M.D., director, pediatric neurology, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Sept. 17, 2009, Stroke, online

Coffee Linked To Heart And Stroke Risk

Friday, September 4th, 2009

People who drink lots of coffee but who don’t follow a Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to have atrial fibrillation, according to a new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Barcelona.

Researchers studied patients who’d been recently diagnosed with the common heart arrhythmia to supply information about their dietary habits, including caffeine consumption. Their diets were compared with those of people without atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation means the heart’s two upper chambers quiver instead of beating regularly, leading to heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and an increase in the risk of stroke.

According to the scientists, daily coffee intake was divided into four categories: none, low (one cup per-day), medium (two to three cups a day), and heavy (more than three cups).

The individuals participating in the study were cross-ranked according to their adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, olive oil, fruits and vegetables and includes little red meat.

The report notes that individuals with atrial fibrillation were less likely to follow the Mediterranean diet than those without the heart condition. Those with atrial fibrillation also consumed more red meat and full-fat dairy products.

The heaviest coffee drinkers were also more likely to have atrial fibrillation than those who drank less, the study found.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Aug. 30, 2009

Strokes Occurring At Younger Ages

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Strokes are no longer an affliction of old age, a new study finds.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis found that people in the working ages of life are having strokes with greater regularity than ever before. 

While more people under the age of 65 are suffering strokes, rehabilitation is often not offered to younger people with mild stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  Heart attacks, cancer and strokes are the three major critical illnesses affecting Americans.

The study examined data on nearly 8,000 people treated for stroke between 1999 and 2008. Researchers found that 45 percent were under 65 and 27 percent were under the age of 55. This differs drastically from data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which states that 66 percent of all strokes occur in people over 65, the report in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy reports.

Most of the strokes among those under 65 were mild.  Individuals typically do not have outward signs of impairment and therefore are discharged with little or no rehabilitation.  The report noted that these individuals have trouble reintegrating back into complex activities of everyday life such as employment.

About 71 percent of patients who had a mild to moderate stroke were discharged directly home, discharged with home services only, or discharged with outpatient services only.   Follow-up with stroke victims revealed that 46 percent of those with a mild stroke said they were working slower, 42 percent said they were not able to do their job as well, 31 percent said they were not able to stay organized and 52 percent said they had problems concentrating.

SOURCES: Timothy J. Wolf, O.T.D., M.S.CI., O.T.R/L, instructor, occupational therapy and neurology and investigator for the Cognitive Rehabilitation Research Group, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; Richard Isaacson, M.D., assistant professor, neurology and medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; September/October 2009, American Journal of Occupational Therapy

Ankle Circulation Can Warn Of Strokes

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A simple test of blood circulation in the ankle could help physicians identify individuals at higher risk of suffering another stroke according to the American Heart Association.

According to researchers, a simple test to compare blood flow in the ankle to that in the arm is all that’s needed.  A significant difference between the two readings could suggest that a patient suffers from peripheral artery disease, caused by fatty plaque buildup in the arteries of the extremities.

Stroke survivors and those who have experienced transient ischemic attacks — also known as TIAs or mini-strokes — are at high risk of stroke if they have peripheral artery disease according to the scientists.

Researchers screened survivors of strokes and mini-strokes using a device similar to a blood-pressure cuff to check circulation in their ankles. They found that 26 percent of the patients had peripheral artery disease without symptoms. Those patients were three times more likely to suffer from stroke, heart attack or death within the next two years compared to those who didn’t have the condition.

Seniors Suffer Silent Strokes

Friday, August 7th, 2009

People age 60+ experience silent strokes, researchers report.  They may not be aware and thus won’t utilize benefits of their health insurance or Medicare Supplement insurance.

“These strokes are not truly silent, because they have been linked to memory and thinking problems and are a possible cause of a type of dementia,” study author Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a neuropsychiatry professor at the University of New South Wales in Sidney, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

The research was published in the journal Neurology.  Researchers followed nearly 500 people aged 60 to 64 for four years. The researchers found that 7.8 percent of the group had evidence of strokes that do not cause any noticeable symptoms — known as silent lacunar infarctions — in which blood flow is blocked in one of the arteries leading to areas deep within the brain. An additional 1.6 percent of the study group had experienced silent strokes by the end of the study period.

Those with high blood pressure had a 60 percent greater chance of having a silent stroke than those with normal blood pressure.   Although relatively symptom-free, silent strokes are a major health problem among the elderly, according to the American Academy of Neurology and other health insurance experts.

Individuals who have had a silent stroke are at higher risk for subsequent strokes and for an accelerated loss of mental skills. In addition to high blood pressure, risk factors include diabetes, heart disease, smoking and older age.

Medical and health insurance professionals recommend person experiencing any symptoms of stroke, call emergency medical services immediately.
Common signs of stroke are:
Sudden weakness or numbness of the arms, legs or face, especially on one side
Quick onset of blurred vision in one or both eyes
Difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
Sudden severe headache with no known cause.