Heart Disease and Stroke

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Heart Disease and Stroke are two of the most prevalent causes of death in the United States (first and third, respectively). Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), the most common type of heart disease, occurs when blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart muscle is reduced or blocked. Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

Addressing the risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke (e.g., smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, high fat diet, physical inactivity, alcohol use) is the focus of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. In addition to improvements in cardiovascular fitness and quality of life through physical activity, dietary changes and smoking cessation, stroke victim rehabilitation involves relearning skills lost due to brain damage and overcoming disabilities through physical, occupational, speech, and/or psychological or psychiatric therapy.

Background on Heart Disease and Stroke

Early recognition of signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke and immediate access to emergency care is crucial for survival and positive outcomes. Minimizing the time that heart muscle cells or brain cells are depleted of oxygen will reduce the chance of permanent damage and disability. Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability (e.g., paralysis, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, balance and coordination problems, cognitive deficits such as problems with memory, attention, learning, judgment, awareness, and thinking, aphasia, pain, recurrent stroke). After experiencing a heart attack or stroke it is essential for survivors to engage in treatment and rehabilitation that will lower the risk of experiencing another event.

Increasing both individual and community awareness of the risk factors, warning signs and symptoms and appropriate treatment of heart disease and stroke can be achieved by providing specific knowledge and skills to support healthy lifestyles (e.g. video and audiotapes on healthy eating, cooking, exercise and tobacco cessation classes), creating supportive social networks to encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles and to assist in coping with the aftermath of a heart attack or stroke (e.g., telephone counseling services, peer educators, caregiver support groups) and increasing access to places in which to practice healthy lifestyles (e.g., recreation centers, walking trails, healthy options in restaurants). Enhanced access to quality preventive and emergency care and rehabilitation providers (e.g., specialized stroke unit, helicopter transport for rural areas, care at special stroke rehabilitation ward) can improve short and long term outcomes. Specific intervention strategies, tools and resources to address commonly associated risk factors of heart disease and stroke are provided in the Heart Disease and Stroke Intervention MICA. Other related Intervention MICA topics are:

Several resources are available to provide more information regarding prevention of and recovery from heart disease and stroke (e.g., educational materials/campaigns, provider training, self-management, integrated approaches to care, access to services and resources) and other risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke (e.g., obesity):

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