The Risks of a Second Stroke

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • Coming off the loss of a popular radio D.J. here in West Virginia, it really makes me ponder my own mortality. Dave McLain survived an aneurysm 10 years ago and seemed to be doing fine, when last month he had another one that killed him. While I have my good days and bad, most of the time, I feel like I never had my stroke. My right arm gets tired from time to time, but I’m basically back to doing everything I did before my stroke five years ago. However, I do worry sometimes, that despite my good fortune, what if I have another stroke, and worse, what if I’m not so lucky the second time?
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    According to the American Stroke Association, almost a third of the estimated 700,000 strokes that occur each year in the United States are recurrent strokes. Among stroke survivors, about 14 percent experience their second stroke within a year. I have passed that point, which is good. But I know I shouldn’t be too confident because like my first stroke, it could happen again just as suddenly and unexpected. Hopefully, like before, I will realize the symptoms and get help right away.

    While these numbers can be startling, I discovered something even more unfortunate among one group. Mexican-Americans who have suffered a stroke are 57 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to suffer a second stroke. The finding is part of a study which started back in 1998 by researchers from the University of Michigan. The study also found that Puerto-Rican American stroke patients face three times the risk of a second stroke as white stroke patients do.

    Researchers found the risk of death triples when having a second stroke, despite your ethnicity. They also discovered secondary strokes are almost always related to the persistence of high blood pressure and the persistence of diabetes.

    The American Stroke Association does offer suggestions on how to prevent a second stroke. Good nutrition and keeping active are two ways to reduce another stroke. High blood pressure is the leading modifiable risk factor in ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. In two-thirds of first strokes, patients have blood pressure higher than 160/95. Patients need to monitor their blood pressure to avoid a stroke a second time. Also follow your doctor’s instructions, especially if it means using antiplatelet and anticoagulant therapies. These are at the heart of preventing recurrent strokes. I take Coumadin and even though I wish I didn’t have to take a blood-thinning medication, it’s just not worth the risk. That’s because the most frequent event that threatens a stroke survivor's quality of life is another stroke, which can cause further disability or death.

    More information on avoiding another stroke:
Published On: September 11, 2006