The world is facing a “looming stroke epidemic” experts have warned after a global study revealed a huge leap in the numbers of younger people suffering from a condition previously associated with old age.
A third of all strokes now occur in 20 to 64-year-olds, according to the Global and Regional Burden of Stroke study. Incidence in this age group has increased by a “startling” 25 per cent in just 20 years said the authors of the report, published in The Lancet.
In the under 20s, more than 83,000 strokes are recorded every year – one in every 200 cases.
A second report, published in The Lancet Global Health, shows that, while overall death rates were down, the number of people dying from stroke was ten times higher in low and middle income countries compared to rich countries. The authors predict that the amount of disability, illness and premature death caused by stroke will more than double worldwide by 2030.
In the UK, there are around 152,000 strokes every year, and the new findings reveal that the poorest areas of the country had a three times higher death rate than the richest.
Jon Barrick, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said that the report revealed “shocking disparity” between rich and poor.
“These new findings lay bare the formidable challenge facing local health services, not only in the UK, but also in countries around the world, to tackle a looming stroke epidemic…” he said. “To help close this health inequality gap, we need more investment in stroke prevention and research.”
He warned that rising rates of obesity and diabetes could “wipe out” gains made in reducing stroke mortality in the UK and said that “at least half of strokes” could be prevented by keeping blood pressure under control and exercising more.
More than half of the global deaths and the majority of the disability caused by stroke were a result of haemorrhagic strokes, the most deadly form, which is mainly caused by high blood pressure and unhealthy lifestyles.
Commenting on the studies for The Lancet, Maurice Giroud, Agnes Jacquin, and Yannick Béjot from the University of Burgundy’s department of neurology said: “Despite some improvements in stroke prevention and management in high-income countries, the growth and ageing of the global population is leading to a rise in the number of young and old patients with stroke.
“Urgent preventive measures and acute stroke care should be promoted in low-income and middle-income countries, and the provision of chronic stroke care should be developed worldwide.”