Stroke rates among younger people should act as 'a wake-up call'
An increasing number of young to middle aged people are suffering from strokes around the world because of their unhealthy lifestyle, according to findings from a new study. Spiralling rates of obesity and diabetes, together with lack of exercise, has caused a rise to the number of strokes effecting people aged between 20 and 64. In fact, the number has increased by a quarter in merely 20 years, calling health experts to label the worrying situation a ‘stroke epidemic’. Strokes afflicting this age group now comprise of 31% of the global total, whereas in 1990 it was only 25%. Stroke rates among children and young people aged 20 and under have also been studied and even among this age group researchers discovered that there are over than 83,000 cases each year; 0.5% of the total number. The findings, published in the latest issue of The Lancet, stem from a systematic analysis of data extracted from 50 countries on the causes of illness and major diseases. Although the analysis demonstrated a decrease in deaths from stroke in the UK, Brits are still more likely to die after suffering a stroke compared to those living in France, Germany and even the U.S. Those living in less well-off countries are also much more at risk of succumbing from a stroke, with 42% more deaths across poorer countries during 1990 to 2010 in comparison to well-off nations. Over those two decades, stroke rates dropped by 12% in the richer countries. Numerous lifestyle risk factors are thought to be the result of increasing stroke rates in the low to middle-income countries. For example, smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet have all been pin-pointed as risk factors. Stroke Association chief executive Jon Barrick said that the findings of the research were a “wake-up call to governments across the globe”. Mr Barrick said: “The report reveals a shocking disparity between rich and poor, where death rates from stroke are up to 10 times higher in lower income countries," Mr Barrick said. Closer to home, within the UK, the number of people dying from stroke is around three times higher in the most economically deprived areas, compared to the least deprived. To help close this health inequality gap, we need more investment in stroke prevention and research." He added: “Rising obesity and diabetes rates, coupled with sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles, could wipe out the improvements we've seen in reducing stroke mortality in the UK, putting even more pressure on our limited NHS resources. This is a stark warning. We urgently need to address this global stroke crisis by prioritising stroke prevention and investment into stroke research.” Lead scientist Professor Valery Feigin, director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at AUT University in New Zealand, commented: “The worldwide stroke burden is growing very fast and there is now an urgent need for culturally acceptable and affordable stroke prevention, management and rehabilitation strategies to be developed and implemented worldwide.” Every year there are an estimated 152,000 strokes that occur in the UK, costing the NHS around £3.7 billion. Broadcaster Andrew Marr suffered a stroke in January 2013 at the age of 53, and recently returned to work. In September he spoke about his experiences, saying: “I thought I’d bounce back in a couple of months. I was lying in bed completely delusional about how ill I was, and [my wife] Jackie was very good, she didn’t tell me. She kept saying, ‘Yes, dear, you’ll get to go to St Petersburg in March, I’m sure it’s going to be fine,’ knowing perfectly well that it wouldn’t. So it took quite a long time for it to sink in just how long it would be. I’ve got another two years before I’ve made a recovery.” The political journalist has drew strength and positives from what he has gone through, and said: “You definitely see the world differently, actually, that is true. You move more slowly. You suck up experiences more intensely and you live the day more.” He added: “And you’re much more aware of all the people all around us who have got really, really difficult disabilities who are looking after their parents, perhaps, and who frankly most of the time, like most people, I simply didn’t see. I wasn’t thinking about them. That has changed. I do see them now, I do think about it.”