Globally, one in four people over age 25 is at risk for stroke during their lifetime, according to a new study, published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine.
“Our findings are startling,” says Dr Gregory Roth, assistant professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, and senior author on the study, in a media release from Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
“It is imperative that physicians warn their patients about preventing strokes and other vascular diseases at earlier points in patients’ lives. We found extremely high lifetime risk for stroke, and based on other research we evaluated, it is clear that younger adults need to think about long-term health risks. They can make a real difference by eating healthier diets, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.”
Using estimates from the Global Burden of Disease study (GBD), researchers developed a new summary measure that combines one’s risk of having a stroke and surviving, with suffering a stroke and dying. For the first time, the study estimates lifetime stroke risk starting at age 25, whereas previous studies begin at age 45.
The authors analyzed the lifetime risk of first-ever stroke, categorized by subtype—ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. They did not assess the lifetime risk of recurring stroke, pediatric stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA), commonly known as “mini-stroke,” which does not result in permanent brain damage. Findings cover 1990 to 2016 in 195 countries and territories by age and sex.
The findings expose large geographic variations. In 2016, the three regions with the highest estimated lifetime risk of stroke were East Asia (38.8%), Central Europe (31.7%), and Eastern Europe (31.6%); the region with the lowest risk was eastern sub-Saharan Africa (11.8%), the release explains.
“The lower risk of lifetime stroke in sub-Saharan Africa does not necessarily represent a lower incidence of stroke or more effective prevention and treatment strategies,” Roth adds. “On the contrary, people there are merely at higher risk of dying of another cause first.”
The burden of stroke among adults is largely dependent on modifiable risk factors and the characteristics of health systems. Therefore, the study’s findings may be useful for long-term planning, especially in terms of prevention and public education.
Nations’ ministers of health and other policymakers need to develop programs encouraging young adults to eat healthier diets with more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as avoid tobacco and alcohol, and increase physical activity and maintain a healthy weight, Roth said. They also should advocate for lower prices of medications that control high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“This important paper provides reliable data on current lifetime risks across the world for different types of stroke, as well as providing countries with valuable insights into the burden of stroke,” states Dr Peter Rothwell, Head of the Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia and Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford.
“These data and insights can be used to prioritize and target strategies for prevention. I hope this important work will be continued so that these trends can be mapped in future decades.”
[Source(s): Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Science Daily]