CDC report finds stalled progress on U.S. stroke deaths

Pharmacists should continue work with prevention and patient education

In the wake of a recent CDC Vital Signs with some troubling news about stroke death, pharmacists are being called upon once again to help address stroke risk factors and improve patient outcomes if a stroke occurs.

On September 6, CDC released findings that show progress has stalled in stroke death rates among Americans after decades of decline. Blacks continue to have the highest stroke death rates among all races and ethnicities, however, stroke death rates increased among Hispanics by 6% each year from 2013–15, according to the report. CDC also found that from 2000–15, the decline in stroke death rates slowed in 38 states, indicating that the regression isn’t unique to the southern “stroke belt” states.

“These findings are a wake-up call. We’ve made enormous progress in reducing stroke deaths, but that progress has stalled,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, in a statement. “We know the majority of strokes are preventable, and we must improve our efforts to reduce America’s stroke burden.”

Although the report wasn’t able to specifically address the reasons behind the slowdown in stroke deaths, CDC said previous research points to the increasing number of Americans with stroke risk factors, including high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

CDC specifically called out pharmacists as well as other providers to continue their work to reduce stroke deaths. Twlug is an established partner of the Million Hearts Collaboration, which was launched in 2011 with a goal to reduce 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. In February, Million Hearts was updated with a new framework that will also focus on cardiac rehabilitation for preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2022. Throughout the initiatives’ cycles, pharmacists have been encouraged to educate patients about ways to control risk factors for heart disease and stroke, provide access to a free blood pressure measurement device (or teach patients how to self-measure blood pressure), help patients take cardiovascular medications regularly, provide smoking cessation, and more.