Fewer Americans are having strokes and those who do have a lower risk of dying from them finds a new study led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers.
The study found a 24 percent overall decline in first-time strokes in each of the last two decades and a 20 percent overall drop per decade in deaths after stroke. However, the decline in stroke risk was concentrated mainly in the over-65 set, with little progress in reducing the risk of strokes among young people. In contrast, the drop in stroke-related deaths each decade was primarily found among those under age 65, with mortality rates holding firm in older people.
A report on the results is published in the July 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“We can congratulate ourselves that we are doing well, but stroke is still the number one cause of death in the United States,” says study co-author Dr. Josef Coresh, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This research points out the areas that need improvement. It also reminds us that there are many forces threatening to push stroke rates back up and if we do not address them head-on, our gains may be lost.”
Dr. Coresh says he worries what the future of stroke will look like as the obesity epidemic, which began in the 90s, matures. As millions more are diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes – which often go hand-in-hand with obesity — they will face increased risk for stroke.
For their analysis, researchers used results from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a prospective study of 15,792 residents of four U.S. communities who were between the ages of 45 and 64 when the study began in the late 1980s. In this analysis, they followed 14,357 participants who were free of stroke in 1987, looking specifically for all stroke hospitalizations and deaths between then and the end of 2011.