A study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reveals that fewer Americans are having strokes, and that those who do have a lower risk of dying. For their analysis, researchers used results from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, which is a prospective study of 15,792 residents of four US communities who were between the ages 45 and 64 years when the study began in the 1980s. The researchers for this analysis followed 14,357 participants who were free of stroke in 1987, looking specifically for stroke hospitalizations and deaths between that year and the end of 2011.

According to a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health news release, the study found a 24% overall decline in first-time strokes in each of the last 2 decades and a 20% overall drop per decade in deaths after stroke. However, the decline in stroke risk was mainly in the over-65 set, with little progress in reducing the risk of strokes among young people, according to researchers. The drop in stroke-related deaths each decade was primarily found among those under 65 years with mortality rates holding firm in older people.

As indicated on the Bloomberg School news release, the researchers found the decrease in stroke incidence and mortality is partially due to more successful control of risk factors such as blood pressure, while an increase in diabetes may have acted in the opposite direction, increasing stroke rates. Stroke severity and improvements in treatment likely also impacted the data, though the study could not measure the exact role they played, as reported in the Bloomberg School news release.

Josef Coresh, MD, PhD, co-author of the study, says, “We can congratulate ourselves that we are doing well, but stroke is still the No 4 cause of death in the United States. This research points out the areas that need improvement. It also reminds us that there are many forces threatening to push stroke rates back up, and if we don’t address them head-on, our gains may be lost.”

[Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health]