AHA releases new stroke care guidelines

Stroke is one of the most significant health threats to seniors. According to the American Heart Association, it is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and also tops the list of causes of disability that requires long term care. Although there are many steps older adults can take to prevent strokes from happening in the first place, the response to a stroke is just as important. In an effort to ensure stroke patients receive the best care, the AHA recently teamed up with the American Stroke Association to provide new guidelines detailing the appropriate response.

Improve public awareness
One of the most important aspects of the plan, revealed in the journal Stroke, was to improve the public's awareness of stroke symptoms so that treatment can be administered as quickly as possible. Many of the earliest stroke symptoms are easy to identify, according to the Mayo Clinic. For instance, trouble with speech and walking are some of the most tell-tale signs that something is amiss. Additionally, numbness of the face, difficulty seeing and a persistent headache are all indicators.

Facilitate better care transfers
After a patient is treated for stroke at a hospital, it's important for them to be smoothly transferred to their next care setting, whether it be assisted living or another form of senior care. Experts say that having an actionable plan in place can not only improve the chances of survival but also help in the recovery process.

"A fully functional 'stroke system of care' that reduces stroke-related deaths by just 2 percent to 3 percent annually would translate into 20,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. alone and approximately 400,000 fewer deaths worldwide,"  Dr. Randall Higashida, the co-chair of the writing group, told Medscape Medical News. 

Certify stroke centers
The AHA and ASA also recommend that placing an emphasis on certified stroke centers will provide better care. There are about 1,000 primary stroke centers in the U.S., but only 40 to 50 comprehensive stroke centers and there is no known figure for acute stroke-ready hospitals. Encouraging hospitals to follow the treatment guidelines that will earn them certification will drastically improve the level of care and treatment that stroke patient can eventually receive.