Stroke, a condition traditionally associated with old age, is increasingly affecting young and middle aged people, according to a major new analysis from the Global and Regional Burden of Stroke in 1990-2010 study, published in The Lancet.
Worldwide, there has been a startling 25% increase in the number of stroke cases among people aged 20 to 64 years over the last 20 years. Strokes in this age group now make up 31% of the total number of strokes, compared to 25% before 1990.
Furthermore, the overall amount of disability and illness and premature death caused by stroke is projected to more than double worldwide by 2030.
The findings come from the first comprehensive and comparable analysis of the regional and country-specific burden of stroke between 1990 and 2010.
For the first time, researchers were also able to study incidence of stroke in children and young people, and found that more than 83 000 people aged 20 years and younger are affected by stroke in the world each year. Strikingly, 0.5% of all strokes happen in this age group.
A second major study published in The Lancet Global Health shows that in 2010, three fifths (61.5%) of the disability and more than half (51.7%) of the lives lost to stroke were the result of haemorrhagic strokes (the deadliest form, mainly caused by high blood pressure and unhealthy lifestyles), despite being half as common as ischaemic strokes. Most affected are people younger than 75 years and those living in low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC) where incidence of haemorrhagic stroke has risen by around 19%.
The authors warn that the shift in stroke burden towards younger populations is likely to continue globally unless effective preventive strategies are urgently implemented.
Led by Professor Valery Feigin, Director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at AUT University in New Zealand, a team of international researchers performed a comprehensive search of the available data to estimate the incidence, prevalence, and premature death and disability caused by stroke (and the two primary subtypes ischaemic and haemorrhagic) in all 21 regions of the world for 1990, 2005, and 2010.
Key findings include: