Increased global attention, research needs to be given to stroke prevention: UEA

March 20, 2016

Globally, stroke accounts for around 10% of all deaths. Improved prevention in developed countries has led to a reduction in the risk of dying as a result of stroke, while stroke rates across the developed world fell 42% between 1970 and 2008. Over the same period rates rose 100% for developing countries, which also report substantially higher fatality rates. Most regions will see an increase in deaths caused by stroke and NCDs between 2002 and 2030, with the most notable rise in South Asia. For those who survive, the health consequences include disability, paralysis and cognitive impairment, which can lead to high treatment and care costs, reduced earning capacity, and the risk of impoverishment.

Despite the low cost of preventative drug treatments, a high proportion of the key risk-factors for stroke, such as hypertension, diabetes and raised cholesterol, continue to be untreated in most developing countries and are increasing. While old age is another significant risk factor, because developing countries contain fewer people at the oldest ages, a higher share of stroke occurs among people at younger ages - on average 15 years younger than in developed countries.

In many developing countries the availability of emergency treatment remains extremely limited, especially in rural areas, and the cost prohibitive. However, Prof Lloyd-Sherlock suggests that screening for and treating pre-disposing conditions - for example medication to lower blood pressure or cholesterol levels - could bring immediate benefits. It is claimed that rolling out multi-drug treatments could save 18 million deaths between 2005 and 2015.

Prof Lloyd-Sherlock said: "This form of prevention may offer a relatively cheap and low-tech alternative that has the capacity to generate substantial short-term gains in population health. The process of screening is relatively cheap, only requiring basic equipment and limited staff training, while multi-drug treatment therapies are affordable when compared with drug regimes for TB or HIV/AIDS. Despite this, the scale of these challenges, particularly in low-income settings, should not be down-played."

Source: University of East Anglia