Background: Each year, stroke occurs in 30.9 million individuals worldwide and is responsible for ∼4 million deaths. In the United States, it is the third leading cause of death, occurring with greater frequency than myocardial infarction in patients with hypertension. The greatest burden of stroke, apart from death, is serious long-term physical and mental disability. Stroke survivors often experience physical handicap, depression, and cognitive dysfunction, which together affect their daily functioning, quality of life, and survival. The treatment of stroke is associated with extremely high costs, with stroke-related illnesses responsible for >$49 billion in the United States in 2002. Despite intensive research efforts, few effective treatments are available once stroke has occurred; thus, stroke prevention should be a primary focus for all health care providers. Objective: The purpose of this article was to review the epidemiology and burden of stroke in terms of disability, quality of life, and cost of care, and to summarize the evidence for treatments having therapeutic benefit, with an emphasis on antihypertensive agents. Methods: Relevant studies were identified through a MEDLINE search of English-language articles published between 1990 and 2004. The search terms were stroke, epidemiology, economic impact, disability, quality of life, hypertension, drug therapy, and angiotensin II-receptor antagonists. Articles describing major clinical studies, new data, or new mechanisms pertinent to the therapy of stroke were selected for review. Conclusions: Identifying and modifying key risk factors is crucial to reducing the morbidity and mortality of stroke. Hypertension is one of the most important risk factors for stroke, and treatment with a variety of antihypertensive agents reduces the risk. Recent evidence suggests that the angiotensin II (ATII)-receptor antagonist losartan may offer advantages beyond blood pressure lowering, including attenuation of the central aortic reflected pressure wave, molecule-specific properties, and neural protective influences on brain ATII type 2 receptors.
- Angiotensin II-receptor antagonists
- Drug therapy
- Economic impact
- Quality of life
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