Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Report Finds That 127,000 Upstate New York Adults Survived a Stroke

Submitted by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

About 338,000 adults living in New York state – including 127,250 upstate New Yorkers – reported having survived a stroke during their lifetimes, according to a report released today by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

“The Facts About Stroke Risk and Costs in Upstate New York, 2006-2008” also notes that in upstate New York, the average number of adults who reported having a history of stroke was 2.6 percent of the upstate New York population. The average annual hospital discharge rate for stroke in upstate New York from 2006 to 2008 was 253.1 per 100,000, or about 12,400 people each year.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying oxygen and nutrients to the brain becomes blocked with a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel bursts, causing bleeding within or around the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).The brain is deprived of oxygen, and brain cells die within minutes. Because the body cannot replace damaged brain cells, the effects of a stroke are often permanent.

“Stroke is the nation’s third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer,” said Arthur Vercillo, M.D., regional president, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Those who survive a stroke often become disabled and must be institutionalized.”

Among stroke survivors, an estimated 65 percent require rehabilitation, which considerably increases the individual’s health care costs. The mean lifetime expense of an ischemic stroke in the United States is estimated to be between $140,000 and $210,000.

Average annual hospital costs for stroke care alone amounted to more than $135 million in upstate New York from 2006 to 2008. Annual hospital costs for stroke care in Central New York averaged $36 million during the same time period.

Stroke care affected an average annual number of 2,400 Central New Yorkers, who reported a hospital discharge for stroke in 2006-2008. During that time period, the average annual hospital discharge rate for stroke in Central New York (228.5 per 100,000) was 10 percent lower than the upstate New York average.

“The number of deaths and disabilities that result from a stroke can be lowered by being aware of the medical risk factors associated with stroke and treating them or otherwise modifying them,” emphasized Vercillo. The Excellus BCBS report identified high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco use and obesity as modifiable risk factors.

“If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about controlling your blood pressure and diabetes, quitting tobacco and lowering your weight so you don’t become a stroke statistic,” said Vercillo.

The Excellus BlueCross BlueShield fact sheet also highlighted the following socioeconomic and racial correlations with stroke prevalence:
• Blacks and Hispanics had more than double the lifetime risk of self-reported stroke as those who identified themselves as white.
• Those who were employed reported the lowest rate of stroke, while those unable to work reported 10 times this rate.
• The incidence of stroke generally decreased as income increased.
• Adults with less than a high school education had about five times the rate of stroke compared to college graduates.
• Men and women reported nearly equal rates of stroke.
• Self-reported stroke rates increased with age.

“Being aware of the stroke risk factors and the relationship that socioeconomic and racial indicators have with stroke will go a long way toward bringing down the number of people who die or are incapacitated by stroke in Central New York,” said Vercillo.

Awareness of all five symptoms of stroke also is key. One survey cited in the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield report found that only 38 percent of adults recognized all five symptoms of a stroke, which are sudden:
• Numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body.
• Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
• Severe headache with no apparent known cause.

“Prompt treatment can save lives and minimize disability,” said Vercillo, “especially in those hospitals that have instituted the American Heart Association’s ‘Get With The Guidelines’ program for stroke care.” There is strong evidence that the five components of “Get With The Guidelines” reduce long-term disability, death and recurrence rates.

Vercillo also encouraged people who have modifiable risk factors to see a doctor about bringing them all under control. “A doctor can help you contain high blood pressure and diabetes, and don’t be shy about asking him or her to suggest ways to quit smoking and lose weight.”

To view the complete fact sheet on stroke risks and costs in upstate New York, go to excellusbcbs.com. Tools to quit smoking, lose weight, improve nutrition and increase physical activity also are available for free online at stepup.excellusbcbs.com.