Links To And Excerpts From “2021 Guideline for the Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack: A Guideline From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association”

Today, I review, link to, and excerpt from 2021 Guideline for the Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack: A Guideline From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association [PubMed Abstract] [Full-Text HTML] [Full-Text PDF]. Stroke. 2021 Jul;52(7):e364-e467. doi: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000375. Epub 2021 May 24.

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TOP 10 Take-Home Messages for the Secondary Stroke Prevention Guideline

1. Specific recommendations for prevention strategies often depend on the ischemic stroke/transient ischemic attack subtype. Therefore, new in this guideline is a section describing recommendations for the diagnostic workup after ischemic stroke, to define ischemic stroke etiology (when possible), and to identify targets for treatment in order to reduce the risk of recurrent ischemic stroke. Recommendations are now grouped by etiologic subtype.
2. Management of vascular risk factors remains extremely important in secondary stroke prevention, including (but not limited to) diabetes, smoking cessation, lipids, and especially hypertension. Intensive medical management, often performed by multidisciplinary teams, is usually best, with goals of therapy tailored to the individual patient.
3. Lifestyle factors, including healthy diet and physical activity, are important for preventing a second stroke. Low-salt and Mediterranean diets are recommended for stroke risk reduction. Patients with stroke are especially at risk for sedentary and prolonged sitting behaviors, and they should be encouraged to perform physical activity in a supervised and safe manner.
4. Changing patient behaviors such as diet, exercise, and medication compliance requires more than just simple advice or a brochure from their physician. Programs that use theoretical models of behavior change, proven techniques, and multidisciplinary support are needed.
5. Antithrombotic therapy, including antiplatelet or anticoagulant agents, is recommended for nearly all patients without contraindications. With very few exceptions, the combination of antiplatelets and anticoagulation is typically not indicated for secondary stroke prevention. Dual antiplatelet therapy is not recommended long term, and short term, dual antiplatelet therapy is recommended only in very specific patients, including those with early arriving minor stroke and high-risk transient ischemic attack or severe symptomatic intracranial stenosis.
6. Atrial fibrillation remains a common and high-risk condition for second ischemic stroke. Anticoagulation is usually recommended if the patient has no contraindications. Heart rhythm monitoring for occult atrial fibrillation is usually recommended if no other cause of stroke is discovered.
7. Extracranial carotid artery disease is an important and treatable cause of stroke. Patients with severe stenosis ipsilateral to a nondisabling stroke or transient ischemic attack who are candidates for intervention should have the stenosis fixed, likely relatively early after their ischemic stroke. The choice between carotid endarterectomy and carotid artery stenting should be driven by specific patient comorbidities and features of their vascular anatomy.
8. Patients with severe intracranial stenosis in the vascular territory of ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack should not receive angioplasty and stenting as a first-line therapy for preventing recurrence. Aggressive medical management of risk factors and short-term dual antiplatelet therapy are preferred.
9. There have been several studies evaluating secondary stroke prevention of patent foramen ovale closure since the previous guideline in 2014. It is now considered reasonable to percutaneously close patent foramen ovale in patients who meet each of the following criteria: age 18–60 years, nonlacunar stroke, no other identified cause, and high risk patent foramen ovale features.
10. Patients with embolic stroke of uncertain source should not be treated empirically with anticoagulants or ticagrelor because it was found to be of no benefit.


Each year, ≈795 000 individuals in the United States experience a stroke, of which 87% (690 000) are ischemic and 185 000 are recurrent.1 Approximately 240 000 individuals experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA) each year.2 The risk of recurrent stroke or TIA is high but can be mitigated with appropriate secondary stroke prevention.
The overwhelming majority of strokes can be prevented through BP control, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and smoking cessation. In fact, 5 factors—BP, diet, physical inactivity, smoking, and abdominal obesity—accounted for 82% and 90% of the population-attributable risk (PAR) for ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke in the INTERSTROKE study (Global and regional effects of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with acute stroke in 32 countries).5a Similarly, the Global Burden of Disease Study showed that 90.5% (95% uncertainty interval, 88.5–92.2) of the global burden of stroke was attributable to modifiable risk factors.6 A modeling study showed that targeting multiple risk factors has additive benefits for secondary prevention; specifically, aspirin, statin, and antihypertensive medications, combined with diet modification and exercise, can result in an 80% cumulative risk reduction in recurrent vascular events.7 Although the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and vascular risk factor control are well documented,8,9 risk factors remain poorly controlled among stroke survivors.10–14

1.4. Scope of the Guideline

The aim of the present guideline is to provide clinicians with evidence-based recommendations for the prevention of future stroke among survivors of ischemic stroke or TIA. It should be noted that this guideline does not cover the following topics, which have been addressed elsewhere:
• Acute management decisions (covered in the “2019 Update to the 2018 Guidelines for the Early Management of Patients With Acute Ischemic Stroke”16),
•  Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH; covered in the “Guidelines for the Management of Spontaneous Intracerebral Hemorrhage”17),
• Primary prevention (covered in the “Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Stroke”18 and “2019 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease”19),
• Special considerations for stroke prevention in women (covered in the “Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Women”20), and
• Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (covered in “Diagnosis and Management of Cerebral Venous Thrombosis”22).
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