Many Younger Stroke Survivors Lack Good Medical Care

Insurance woes raise their risk for second stroke, experts warn

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TUESDAY, Nov. 14, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Younger stroke survivors have a tougher time getting medical care and affording prescription drugs compared to older patients, a U.S. study finds.

Researchers at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of Alabama at Birmingham interviewed nearly 3,700 stroke survivors. Of those, over 2,500 were 65 and older (average age 76) and nearly 1,200 were ages 45 to 64 (average age 56).

The younger stroke survivors were more likely to be black (19 percent vs. 10 percent), male (52 percent vs. 47 percent), and to not have health insurance (11 percent vs. 4 percent).

The study also found that the younger stroke survivors were more likely to report that they hadn't seen or talked with a general physician (14 percent vs. 10 percent) or a medical specialist (8 percent vs. 5 percent). The younger survivors were also more likely to say they could not afford prescription medications (15 percent vs. 6 percent).

"Lack of health insurance explained some of the reduced access to physician care among younger stroke survivors but not their more frequent problems with medication affordability," the study authors wrote.

They noted that treatments to prevent second strokes often include drugs to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. These drugs are usually prescribed by a primary care doctor. So, reduced access to doctor care may increase the risk that younger stroke survivors will have a second stroke.

"Further research is needed to determine whether this younger high-risk population has adverse outcomes, such as death and cardiovascular events, or has increased long-term health care utilization due to reduced access to physician care and medications," the study authors wrote.

"Further work addressing access gaps, linking to related health outcomes and costs and demonstrating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of possible improvement strategies, is warranted," they added.

The study was posted online Monday in the journal Archives of Neurology and is expected to appear in the January print issue of the journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Nov. 13, 2006

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