PETER LLOYD: Now, keeping to the theme of health news, there’s startling new research into stroke.
It’s the world’s second biggest killer and now a study has found that it’s become more common in young people.
In the past two decades there’s been a 25 per cent increase in the incidence of stroke among people aged between 20 and 64. What’s more, the incidence is increasing in developing countries.
The author of the study published today in The Lancet says that may be due to an increase in the Western lifestyle of people in developing countries.
David Mark reports.
DAVID MARK: In 2010, 39 million people had a stroke and almost six million of those died.
Anecdotal evidence suggests those numbers are increasing. But surprisingly there are no hard facts on the disorder that kills more people around the world than any disease except for cancer.
So Valery Feigin, the Professor of Neurobiology and Epidemiology at the Auckland University of Technology, set out to find exactly what’s going on.
VALERY FEIGIN: There was a number of really striking findings.
DAVID MARK: Stroke has always been seen as an old person’s disease but, after looking at the figures, Professor Feigin found that’s not the case.
VALERY FEIGIN: The proportion of young people affected by stroke has increased dramatically by 25 per cent over the last 20 years and now stroke is no longer a disease of exclusively elderly people.
DAVID MARK: The obvious question is: why has there been this 25 per cent increase? Unfortunately, Professor Feigin wasn’t looking at the “why”, but he has a theory.
VALERY FEIGIN: First of all, I think these people have increasingly exposed to the risk factors of stroke: poor diet; unbalanced diet, a lot of fat, saturated fat in particular; lack of vegetables and fruits; smoking is extremely important risk factor for stroke; excessive stress has also been shown important risk factors.
All of which lead to the increased blood pressure and other cardiovascular complications such as diabetes, excessive body weight. All are important contributors to stroke.
DAVID MARK: The rate of strokes per hundred thousand people is falling in developed countries, but the actual number is increasing due to population growth.
Graeme Hankey is a Professor of Neurology at the University of Western Australia.
GRAEME HANKEY: Although we’re doing well, we’re not doing well enough and we still have more people presenting with stroke every day than we used to.
DAVID MARK: But the really bad story is that stroke numbers and rates are increasing dramatically in developing countries.
GRAEME HANKEY: And that’s probably related to many factors such as urbanisation, adoption of a Western diet, less physical activity, continuing smoking.
DAVID MARK: The amount of illness, disability and premature death from stroke will more than double worldwide by 2030.
GRAEME HANKEY: People need to acknowledge that their bodies are like their cars and everyone’s prepared to take their car in for a service each year and pay for it.
But they don’t seem to be prepared to take their body in for service and get their GP to check their blood pressure, see whether they’ve got an irregular pulse, an atrial fibrillation, check their fasting sugar and check they’re not diabetic and check they’re fasting cholesterol and counsel them about smoking and other lifestyle behaviours that they might be able to improve and modify.
DAVID MARK: The work, published in the Lancet has for the first time provided hard numbers for governments and health experts to plan for ever more strokes.
Professor Valery Feigin.
VALERY FEIGIN: Stroke is one of the most preventable disorders. It’s extremely devastating disease, but it is preventable in over 90 per cent of cases and prevention is much better than treatment.
PETER LLOYD: That’s Valery Feigin from the Auckland University of Technology. David Mark our reporter.