AHA reveals which COVID-19 patients may face higher stroke risk

The American Heart Association has published new research identifying a higher risk of stroke among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, particularly men and patients who have certain pre-existing conditions. The findings further underscore evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is more than just a respiratory virus and emphasizes the importance of vaccinating people as quickly as possible.

Though COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is most associated with severe pneumonia and respiratory problems, a number of studies have identified other potential consequences related to the virus, including everything from loss of smell to skin rashes and 'red' toes.

The latest research, which was presented virtually at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference 2021, reveals that some people who had more severe COVID-19 cases were also at greater risk of suffering from a stroke compared to others.

The findings were based on an analysis of data on more than 20,000 patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the US last year. Of those people, 281 suffered from a stroke, the majority of which were ischemic stroke at 52.7-percent. This was followed by bleeding or 'unspecified' stroke types at 45.2-percent, and transient ischemic attack at 2.5-percent.

The study found that stroke risk varied based on health factors, age, gender, and race. Black patients may have a higher risk of suffering from ischemic stroke, for example, and of all the stroke types analyzed, 64-percent impacted men.

As well, older patients were more likely to be impacted by stroke, as were patients who had type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Atrial fibrillation was also linked to a greater risk of ischemic stroke in these patients compared to those who didn't have afib. Sadly, patients who had a stroke were more than twice as likely to die in the hospital compared to those who didn't have a stroke.

The study's lead author Saate S. Shakil, MD, said:

We know the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color, but our research suggests Black Americans may have higher risk of ischemic stroke after contracting the virus, as well. Stroke on its own can have devastating consequences and recovering from COVID-19 is often a difficult path for those who survive. Together, they can exact a significant toll on patients who have had both conditions.