Know the warning signs and get vaccinated to prevent COVID-related stroke
HAMILTON, ON – The effect of COVID-19 on our health are far and wide. Mounting evidence shows that patients with severe COVID-19 infection have an increased risk of stroke. Understanding risk factors and getting vaccinated are the best ways to prevent COVID-19 related stroke, says Dr. Mike Sharma, a stroke neurologist and an investigator in the Stroke program at the Population Health Research Institute and Hamilton Health Sciences.
“The increased risk is likely due to changes in blood clotting and inflammation affecting vessels,” he says. “This type of stroke is more severe than strokes in non-COVID patients, involving multiple areas of the brain and potentially leading to worse outcomes, such as permanent disability or death.”
Dr. Sharma cautions that increased risk occurs during acute infection, while a patient has COVID-19. He also notes that people with stroke during COVID-19 infection tend to be younger than those with stroke not related to the virus.
Throughout the waves of COVID-19, during which time Hamilton has been a hot spot, Dr. Sharma says he and his colleagues have seen more patients with severe strokes and fewer patients with milder strokes. He says that much of this is due to people delaying coming to the hospital with mild symptoms.
“We would expect that 1.4 per cent of all COVID-19 cases involves a stroke,” he says. “Using the past week as an example, where 8,750 people in Ontario have had COVID-19, 1.4 out of every one-hundred people would have suffered stroke. That’s 122 patients.”
“Knowing the warning signs of stroke, and getting to the emergency department without delay is really important.” He adds, “The best way to protect yourself from COVID-related stroke is to be vaccinated.”
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