May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and it’s an opportune time to remind practitioners and patients alike how important education and prevention can be.
In the U.S., stroke is the fifth leading cause of death while roughly 80% of all strokes are preventable, as shared by the Society for Public Health Education. Proactively taking steps for prevention is key, but preventative care is not a one-size-fits-all concept.
Health care disparities exist for marginalized groups, so it is important to recognize that these patients may not have access to high-quality care. Even if they do, they may be reluctant to seek support.
Physicians can more easily identify risk factors in patients they see regularly, versus patients who do not – or cannot – access care. Though, the message is the same: learning the warning signs and promoting preventative care can help save lives.
The American Stroke Association (ASA), a division of the American Heart Association, identified Out of the 800,000 annual cardiovascular deaths, stroke caused an estimated 130,000. The connection between the two: restricted blood flow. A healthy cardiovascular system does not have blockages caused by cholesterol or clots, and patients can maintain a healthy flow by following the ASA and AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7” guidelines:
1. Manage Blood Pressure
2. Control Cholesterol
3. Reduce Blood Sugar
4. Get Active
5. Eat Better
6. Lose Weight
7. Stop Smoking
Although cardiovascular disease knows no demographic boundaries, the American Academy of Cardiology states. “Yet, a growing body of data continues to show significant disparities in care
among specific populations as a result of factors ranging from bias to access to health insurance.”
Sexual gender minority, or SGM individuals are less likely to identify a primary care physician, due to discrimination and discomfort. Imagine the number of SGM patients who stepped into a doctor’s office, had an uncomfortable experience or witnessed bias, then never returned. Then,imagine one of those patients having high blood pressure in the future – and experiencing a stroke without warning.
It is critical for practitioners to not only help share these important prevention steps, but to also promote cultural competence among our peers. This will foster a safe, welcoming space for all
What is the Current Climate for SGM Patients?
Neurology’s connection with cardiology?
The Journal of General Internal Medicine’s 2018 LGBT Health Module began with a baseline knowledge assessment among 1018 medical residents within 120 internal medicine programs.
Then, the participants completed the learning module, and they were evaluated on their post-module competence.
Participants were largely able to define SGM-related terminology, such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Conversely, the assessment revealed low levels of understanding with
preventative care issues and health disparities impacting SGM patients.
Specific to mind matters, approximately one-third of a sample of neurologists specified they would not tailor their neurologic care based on patients’ SGM identity, according to a 2019 survey conducted by the American Academy of Neurology in partnership with the LGBTQ+ Survey Task Force. However, over 60% of the respondents recognized that SGM individuals face overarching barriers in health care, which can compromise their access – and, specifically, management of neurological illness.
See the disconnect here? Two-thirds of the participants were aware of the unique challenges facing SGM patients, while only one-third applied this concept to their practice.
How Can We Help?
“Health disparities in LGBTQ communities may improve with improved physician training on clinical care of LGBTQ patients and families,” cites the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
This is a major “why” behind what we do. Dina Proto International provides targeted training and education to organizations to break down these inconsistencies and barriers to quality, inclusive
American Academy of Cardiology. (2020, July 23). Cover Story | Transforming Care for LGBTQ+ Patients. Retrieved from
American Heart Association. (2018, May 7). My Life Check | Life’s Simple 7. Retrieved from
Society for Public Health Education. (2021). May is National Stroke Awareness Month.
Streed, C.G., Hedian, H.F., Bertram, A. et al. (2019, March 7). Assessment of Internal Medicine
Resident Preparedness to Care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and
Queer/Questioning Patients. Retrieved from