Stroke risk for older men who take alpha-blockers

This new study was published on the Canadian Medical Association Journal and was led by Dr. Chao-Lun Lai, from the National Taiwan University Hospital, Hsin-Chu Branch.

shutterstock_133593296Stroke costs a lot of lives each year and has far reaching consequences. In America stroke kills nearly 130,000 people each year, which means that every 4 minutes an average of one American dies from stroke. Stroke is a big health problem and therefore its risk factors should be known. A newly discovered risk factor is the alpha-blockers, which are prescribed for high blood pressure, Raynaud’s disease and benign prostate hypertrophy, among others. These medications are prescribed by general practitioners and specialists, who should know about this new risk. This information is also important for students, because they usually look into the medication of the patients they care for.

Alpha-blockers work by relaxing certain muscles and helping small blood vessels stay open. The result is improved blood flow and lowering of the blood pressure. However, the adverse effect of the alpha-blockers is a large decrease in blood pressure within the first few days, increasing the risk of stroke. The results of the study show an increased risk of ischemic stroke for men during the first 21 days of treatment and a reduced risk 22-60 days after starting the treatment. Interestingly, men who were already taking other blood pressure medications did not have an increased risk of stroke, likely because their bodies were already accustomed to the medications and their blood pressure stabilizing effects. Therefore, the researchers recommend caution when prescribing alpha-blockers to patients who are not taking other antihypertensive medications.

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