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Apr 21, 2011

Stroke Mortality Trends Worldwide

Stroke trends vary significantly by sex, age, country and income.

Stroke accounts for over 5 million deaths per year worldwide, making it the third most common cause of death each year. Even worse, worldwide stroke mortality rates are estimated to double by the year 2020. Given that roughly 2/3 of strokes are caused by high blood pressure and 1/3 result in death, these statistics are especially troubling as blood pressure is often easily diagnosed and highly treatable.

Research published on April 12, 2011 in the European Heart Journal addressed this concern by investigating worldwide stroke mortality trends over the course of 15 years. Data for this study was obtained from the World Health Organization, which reported rates for stroke mortality between 1990 and 2006 in 39 countries in Europe and Central Asia. Based on results, there were a total of 1,226,144 deaths due to stroke between 1990 and 2006, and most interesting was the breakdown of deaths by country, sex, and age. Nearly 2/3 of stroke deaths were in women and 60% of deaths were in older populations aged 75 years and over. However, stroke mortality rates in men were significantly higher under the age of 65, whereas these rates were significantly higher in women over the age of 65. Also, stroke mortality rates significantly varied by country. Overall, countries considered to have very low child and adult mortality, typically of higher economic standards, experienced decreased stroke mortality rates over the 15 years studied. On the other hand, low-income countries with higher mortality rates saw increased death rates from stroke.

Study findings will prove extremely useful in addressing the stroke mortality inequalities discovered among countries worldwide. In countries with high, rising stroke mortality rates, blood pressure must be better diagnosed and treated to help prevent stroke. Women and men must also be treated for hypertension more effectively, as they experience drastically different risk for stroke at unlike ages. The diagnosis and treatment of hypertension is essential at an early age in men to prevent stroke at a younger age. Blood pressure must also be more effectively managed in older populations, as they account for nearly 2/3 of stroke deaths worldwide. Overall, these issues must be addressed in a variety of ways, from modifying population lifestyle choices to improving healthcare delivery in countries with high stroke burden. 

Questions for You to Consider

  • Why is stroke so prevalent worldwide?
  • Due to better lifestyle guidelines and medical advances, more people are living longer. Older individuals have increased risk for stroke based on age, so a larger proportion of populations are at high risk. Also, major risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity are increasing worldwide, which can increase the incidence of stroke.
  • How can I help prevent stroke?

  • There are many things adults can do to help prevent a stroke. First, maintain a health blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, visit your physician to properly treat this condition. Maintaining a healthy diet, weight, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, and quitting smoking (if you are a smoker) can also help significantly lower risk for stroke.

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