Physicians' focus on risks for stroke and dementia saved lives, money

July 17, 2012

Fewer people died or needed expensive long-term care when their physicians focused on the top risk factors for stroke and dementia, according to research reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).

The primary care doctors in the German study focused on high blood pressure, smoking, , diabetes, (atrial fibrillation) and depression. The researchers found that during a five-year period, the need for long-term care was cut 10 percent in women and 9.6 percent in men.

Based on data collected in a comparison district, 2,112 deaths were expected in the intervention group, but only 1,939 patients died.

"Primary prevention pays off," said Horst Bickel, Ph.D., lead author of the study and senior researcher at the Department of Psychiatry at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. "Prevention measures have a potential for improving health in old age which has up to now not been satisfactorily exploited."

He described these as "relatively simple" interventions, such as encouraging patients to:

  • be more physically active;
  • eat healthier foods;
  • quit smoking;
  • reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The study included nearly 4,000 people age 55 and older in rural Upper Bavaria, Germany. Their were given a brochure summarizing the recommendations, treatment guidelines and goals. Those patients were compared to 13,000 people in a nearby area who received the usual care without the focus on preventing stroke and dementia.

"We found that not only the risk of long-term care dependence was lower, but also that death rates decreased," Bickel said. "In addition, the cost of inpatient treatment was reduced in the intervention region."

Bickel said he's confident the results can be applied in the United States and other Western populations that suffer from similar -related illnesses. He points to smoking, lack of exercise and obesity as the main culprits.

"At the , even simple measures can lead to substantial achievements," he said. "Our results are only one example for how health risks can be reduced through uncomplicated, routine treatment of risk factors in the framework of a real-world setting."

Explore further: High-risk stroke patients more likely to get follow-up care after motivational talk

Related Stories

High-risk stroke patients more likely to get follow-up care after motivational talk

August 4, 2011
Even though many Americans learn through community health screenings that they are at high risk for having a stroke, they rarely follow-up with their doctor for care.

UK doctors still undertreating atrial fibrillation - major risk factor for stroke

October 13, 2011
Despite significant improvements in stroke prevention over the past decade, and a fall in incidence and deaths, UK doctors are still undertreating one of the major risk factors - atrial fibrillation - reveals research published ...

Lifestyle counseling reduces time to reach treatment goals for people with diabetes

January 24, 2012
Lifestyle counseling, practiced as part of routine care for people with diabetes, helps people more quickly lower blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and keep them under control, according to a large, long-term ...

People with dementia less likely to return home after stroke

October 31, 2011
New research shows people with dementia who have a stroke are more likely to become disabled and not return home compared to people who didn't have dementia at the time they had a stroke. The study is published in the November ...

Vascular changes linked to dementia

July 21, 2011
The same artery-clogging process (atherosclerosis) that causes heart disease can also result in age-related vascular cognitive impairments (VCI), according to a new American Heart Association/American Stroke Association scientific ...

Recommended for you

Early study shows shoe attachment can help stroke patients improve their gait

December 14, 2017
A new device created at the University of South Florida – and including a cross-disciplinary team of experts from USF engineering, physical therapy and neurology – is showing early promise for helping correct the signature ...

Scientists rewrite our understanding of how arteries mend

December 13, 2017
Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered how the severity of trauma to arterial blood vessels governs how the body repairs itself.

Deadly heart rhythm halted by noninvasive radiation therapy

December 13, 2017
Radiation therapy often is used to treat cancer patients. Now, doctors at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that radiation therapy—aimed directly at the heart—can be used to treat patients ...

Ultra-thin tissue samples could help to understand and treat heart disease

December 12, 2017
A new method for preparing ultra-thin slices of heart tissue in the lab could help scientists to study how cells behave inside a beating heart.

Young diabetics could have seven times higher risk for sudden cardiac death

December 12, 2017
Young diabetics could have seven times more risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest than their peers who don't have diabetes, according to new research.

Research reveals how diabetes in pregnancy affects baby's heart

December 12, 2017
Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have discovered how high glucose levels—whether caused by diabetes or other factors—keep heart cells from maturing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.