Stroke risk decreases during past two decades

According to a results of a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers, there has been a 24% decrease in first-time strokes during the past two decades and a 20% decrease per decade in death after stroke.

The decrease in stroke risk was concentrated mostly in adults older than 65 years, whereas the decrease in stroke-related death was found among patients younger than 65 years. Researchers focused on deaths from causes, including heart disease and pneumonia following stroke.

The study used results from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, a prospective study of 15,792 U.S. residents aged 45 years to 64 years. Researchers followed 14,357 participants who were free of stroke in 1987 and monitored them through 2011.

A total of 7% of the sample had a stroke during that period. Of those patients, 10% died within 30 days, 21% died within 1 year, 40% died within 5 years and 58% died by the end of the study.

The researchers found the number of deaths which occurred within 10 years of a stroke reduced by about eight deaths per 100 cases for each decade. Results were similar across race and gender.

The decline in death was partly due to stroke victims younger than 65 years surviving longer, improvements in medical treatment and more successful control of risk factors, such as blood pressure, smoking cessation and the use of statin medications for controlling cholesterol.

Josef Coresh, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-author of the study, said while the study shows promise in reducing stroke-related deaths, an increase in diabetes and obesity could increase the rates. Age disparities in outcomes also warrant further research, he added.

“We can congratulate ourselves that we are doing well, but stroke is still the number 4 cause of death in the United States. This research points out areas that need improvement. It also reminds us that there are many forces threatening to push stroke rates back up and if we don’t address them head-on, our gains may be lost.”

For more information:

Koton S. JAMA. 2014;312(3):259-268. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.7692.

Disclosure: Coresh has no relevant financial disclosure.

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