Updated Stroke Prevention Guidelines

Updated Stroke Prevention Guidelines

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) have updated guidelines on primary stroke prevention based on comprehensive and timely evidence from clinical investigations and research trials. Recommendations are included for controlling risk factors, using interventional approaches to atherosclerotic disease, and antithrombotic treatments for preventing stroke. The guidelines were published in Stroke and are available for free online at “One of the most important changes in the AHA/ASA guidelines is that newer anticoagulants can be used as alternatives to warfarin to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF),” says James F. Meschia, MD, FAHA, who chaired the AHA/ASA committee that developed the recommendations. The guidelines note that although some of the new AF drugs are more expensive, they require less ongoing monitoring and therefore represent reasonable options for patients. Another key recommendation from the guidelines is that clinicians are urged to use of statins, along with diet and exercise, to help lower the stroke risk in patients at high risk for experiencing a stroke within the next 10 years. “In addition, the CHA2DS2-VASc is recommended for stratifying the risk for stroke,” says Dr. Meschia. “Patients with a score of 0 on the CHA2DS2-VASc do not require anticoagulants, but those with a score of 2 or higher should receive these therapies.” He adds that patients with a score of 1 on CHA2DS2-VASc can be considered for anticoagulants.   Women & Stroke According to the AHA/ASA, women have higher stroke risks if they are pregnant, use oral contraceptives, use hormone replacement therapy, have migraines, and/or have depression. The guidelines recognize the different risk factors women face throughout their...

Dealing With Diabetes & Depression

Rates of depression are significantly higher for patients with diabetes, especially those who are elderly, when compared with people without diabetes. About 20% to 30% of patients with diabetes suffer from clinically relevant depressive disorders. “Depression can worsen glycemic control in those with diabetes,” says Jason C. Baker, MD. Research suggests depression is associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes complications and adverse outcomes. Conversely, improving depressive symptoms has been shown to lead to better glycemic control. “Depression can result in reduced physical activity and a greater need for medical care and prescriptions, which in turn can increase healthcare costs and worsen quality of life,” Dr. Baker says. “In order to improve the management of patients with these two conditions, it’s imperative that healthcare providers be aware of this link and its consequences.” He adds that effective pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments are available and may be of benefit in some situations. Routine Screening The stress of managing diabetes on a daily basis and the effects of the disease on the brain may contribute to depression, according to Dr. Baker. “There are multiple factors that may be at play, but one of the most important things clinicians can do is screen patients with diabetes for depression,” he says. “Oftentimes, physicians focus solely on the chief complaint or on A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers. We need to take a more holistic approach and be vigilant about seeking out depression or other mental health problems. This should become a routine part of all diabetes care.” Dr. Baker says that it can be challenging to address depression when managing patients with...