Stroke: CDC outlines the main signs and how to respond
The annual death toll from strokes could have more than tripled by 2030, in just four decades, warns a new report by experts in China.
It comes just days after the British Heart Foundation said there had been an “astonishing rise” in the number of people in the UK diagnosed with a heart rhythm condition that puts them at increased risk of a stroke. Unhealthy lifestyles such as eating too much ultra-processed food, smoking and lack of exercise are fuelling the ‘health timebomb’, say scientists.
Ischaemic strokes, the most common where a clot cuts blood supply to the brain, will be claiming up to 6.4 million lives a year at the end of the decade. This compares to two million in 1990 – and more than three million in 2019.
Lead author Dr Lize Xiong, of Tongji University in Shanghai, said: “This increase in the global death toll of ischaemic stroke along with a predicted further increase in the future is concerning.
“But ischemic stroke is highly preventable. Our results suggest a combination of lifestyle factors like smoking and a diet high in sodium along with other factors such as high blood pressure and high body mass index can lead to an increased risk of stroke.”
Pre-packaged salty foods such as crisps, biscuits, pizzas and ready meals can raise blood in the arteries – leading to hypertension. It’s one of the main causes of stroke – and has no symptoms. The ‘silent killer’ affects roughly 1.3 billion adults worldwide.
Stroke is the fourth single leading cause of death in the UK, responsible for 38,000 deaths annually. Britain has been dubbed the ‘fat man of Europe’ with almost two-thirds of adults overweight or obese.
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The Chinese team identified seven major risk factors behind the growing burden of stroke. They included smoking, a sodium rich diet, kidney dysfunction and high blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and BMI (body mass index).
The results are based on an analysis of information collected by the Global Health Data Exchange. They showed the death toll for ischaemic stroke is expected to increase further to 4.9 million in 2030.
But the overall number may reach 6.4 million if the risk factors are not controlled or prevented. Dr Xiong and colleagues also found stroke rate fell from 66 to 44 per 100,000 people between 1990 and 2019. As the world population grew, deaths went up from 2.04 million to 3.29 million.
She said: “This decrease in the stroke rate likely means that the overall increase in the number of strokes worldwide is mainly due to population growth and ageing.”
The study, published in the journal Neurology, focused on ischaemic strokes as they are behind almost nine-in-ten cases. Much rarer haemorragic strokes occur when a blood vessel bursts in the brain.
Dr Carlos Cantu-Brito, a stroke expert at the Salvador Zubiran National Institute in Mexico City, who was not involved, said: “This study provides an insightful perspective on the global burden of ischaemic stroke.
“It points out many vital factors that should be used for informed policymaking, emphasising the need for policies and programs to promote healthy lifestyle choices, including regular physical activity, low-salt diets and smoking cessation.”
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