1. Palatnik, AnneMarie RN, APN-BC, MSN

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On a recent Saturday, I spent 2 hours coaching my daughter's travel softball game. While I was enjoying a beautiful 70-degree spring day with 12 fantastic young softball players, across the nation about 180 people suffered a stroke and about 34 people died of a stroke. Those staggering statistics really make you look at winning and losing from a very different perspective.

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In 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, 6.5 million Americans suffered strokes (2.6 million men and 3.9 million women). Each year about 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke; women are affected more often than men. Stroke is ranked number 3 among all causes of death, following heart disease and cancer, and is a leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. The direct and indirect cost of stroke for 2008 was estimated at $68.9 billion. Staggering as these statistics are, they point to yet another opportunity for us to become better advocates not only for our patients, but also for our communities.


We need to be continually cognizant of stroke risk factors, stroke prevention, and stroke warning signs, and communicate this information any time that we have a captive audience. Hypertension is the most significant risk factor for stroke. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke about fivefold. Smoking almost doubles the risk of ischemic stroke. Fortunately, several studies have shown that physical activity reduces stroke risk.


The American Heart Association, in collaboration with the American Stroke Association, has developed "Get With the Guidelines," to help ensure that stroke patients are treated and discharged appropriately. The program helps hospital staff align their patient care with the most up-to-date scientific guidelines and best practices, thereby improving outcomes. It focuses on ischemic stroke prevention as well as acute stroke treatment. The goal is to decrease mortality and improve quality of life.


The first step in "Get With the Guidelines" is for the hospital to develop a primary stroke center. Teams in this center can quickly diagnose and treat patients suspected of having suffered a stroke. The program also offers an online patient management tool that provides patient-specific guideline information. The tool tracks adherence to the guidelines individually as well as against national benchmarks.


There's no sweeter win than implementing preventive education to reduce stroke occurrence, and programs such as "Get With the Guidelines" to improve the outcomes of patients who experience a stroke. Until the next time: Be healthy, be happy, and be great advocates for your patients!!


AnneMarie Palatnik

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Director of Clinical Learning Center for Learning Virtua Health Mount Laurel, N.J.




1. American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, 2009 Update at a Glance.


2. American Heart Association. Get With the Guidelines-Stroke.


3. American Stroke Association.