Fifteen thousand men and women in Israel have a stroke in an average year, and most of them suffer a disability that requires rehabilitation, according to the Israeli National Acute Stroke Survey disclosed by the Neurological Association in cooperation with the Israel Medical Association on Sunday.
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The data were collected from 27 general hospitals and were based on 2,000 cases.
One out of five women and one out of six men will have a stroke sometime in their lives. Globally, every two seconds, somebody is hit by a stroke, and every six seconds, someone dies of it.
There is significant difference in the risks of stroke between Jews and Arabs. The stroke rate has declined somewhat in the last decade, but the growth and aging of the population has meant that the numbers of strokes remain steady.
The average age for a stroke is 73 among women and 69 among men, but it can occur in much younger people, even in their 20s and 30s; 6% of those who suffer a stroke are under age 50 and 20% under age 60 when it occurs.
The survey examined how and how long it took for stroke victims to reach the hospital, their medical history, their risk factors, treatment for stroke, their condition when they were discharged and their amount of disability (if any) three months later.
Only 44% of stroke patients were women, but their degree of disability was greater on average than that of men. The women’s risk of stroke was higher than of having a heart attack. The most common kind of stroke in the patients was ischemic, in which a blood vessel to or inside the brain is clogged, and not a hemorrhage in the brain (which is more likely to end in death or serious disability).
The most common symptom after stroke is sudden weakness or paralysis on one side; this occurred in 70% of cases. Difficulty speaking was also an important symptom, and it occurs in over half of the victims. The most common risk factors for a stroke include high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, excessive drinking of alcohol and uncontrolled diabetes.
Many of Israel’s hospitals lack a dedicated stroke unit to diagnose and treat victims in the fastest and most professional manner. Half of the victims are taken to internal medicine departments rather than stroke units, and the average hospital stay for stroke patients is eight to 11 days. Between 20% and 40% of stroke victims go to the hospital themselves or are taken by a relative or friend instead of in an ambulance where they can receive initial treatment, thereby increasing the risk of disability.
Most stroke victims arrive at the hospital late, about 4.5 hours after the first symptoms. Ideally, stroke patients should be treated within the “golden hour” after the event. The main treatments are the injection of a chemical that melts clots and catheterization of blood vessels in the brain.
Six percent of those with an ischemic stroke die after the event, compared to 20% with a brain hemorrhage.
The majority of those suffering from either of the types of stroke went home or to an institution with moderate to serious disability (mostly because they did not arrive in time or did not reach stroke units).