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Study: stroke survivors more likely to suffer an increased risk of major heart issues

EL PASO, Texas - New research show that people who survive a stroke are at an increased risk of developing major heart issues in the month following the stroke, which puts them at a greater risk of a second stroke or heart attack within the next five years. These cardiovascular complications following a stroke are known as Stroke-Heart Syndrome.

Dr. Chalam Mulukutla, pediatric and adult interventional cardiologist with Las Palmas Medical Center, appeared on ABC-7 at 4 to discuss the study's findings.

"This study looked at 300,000 patients over 20 years and found that people that had a stroke were at increased risk of having a cardiac event in the next four weeks after their event and another stroke within five years," said Dr. Mulukutla, "and I think part of it is because the risk factors that affect you to have a stroke are very similar about the risk factors that happen to be cardiac disease. So high cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, these are all things that can cause a stroke. And if you have a blockage in your heart artery, you may have a blockage in your brain artery and these ischemic strokes and 87% of these patients, these are patients that had blocked arteries there. So it's very possible that you could have some of the same things happen in your heart."

Dr. Mulukutla explained it's very common to experience heart complications after a stroke.

"In the study, they showed that they were more likely to have a second stroke up to five years afterwards. And part of the reason was, some patients have atrial fibrillation, which is a funny heart rhythm that we see in up to 10% of the patients that have a stroke. But what was also interesting is 12% of the patients actually presented with acute coronary syndrome in the next four weeks, which is chest pain. So it's very interesting that they're sort of like we say birds of a feather flock together. There's sort of bad things that are together and in this case, it just means that we just have to be more vigilant when we're taking care of stroke patients, because there may be cardiac problems as well."

In order to stay healthy and avoid a second stroke, Dr. Mulukutla offered some advice.

"The key is prevention and the key also now is what we think is good communication between the brain and heart doctors. And of course, the general doctors and decreasing your diabetes. So your hemoglobin A1C, if you have it, decreasing your cholesterol and managing your blood pressure. So managing your risks along with diet and exercise are going to help decrease your risk here. It's not going to make it zero but it's going to decrease it so the chances are less and that's our goal with all patients to decrease their overall risk."

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Mark Ross

Mark Ross is an anchor/producer for ABC-7.

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