Today, stroke is the second-leading cause of death worldwide and causes disability, dementia and other health problems in millions each year. Although strokes are common, deaths are unequally distributed, with 86 percent occurring in low- and middle-income nations, and a growing number affecting people under age 55.
The researchers blame unequally distributed health-care resources, a lack of prevention programs, pollution, lifestyle factors and other issues for the high number of stroke deaths. The world ignores stroke’s public health burden at its own peril, they suggest, projecting that costs of stroke treatments and lost income will rise from $891 billion per year in 2017 to up to $2.31 trillion by 2050.
Despite ambitious international targets to reduce noncommunicable diseases by 2050, the researchers write, the world isn’t meeting its own goals.
“Stroke exerts an enormous toll on the world’s population, leading to the death and permanent disability of millions of people each year, and costing billions of dollars,” committee co-chair Valery L. Feigin, of Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, said in a news release. “These estimates are indicative of the ever-increasing burden we will see in the years ahead unless urgent, effective action is taken.”
That action should include awareness campaigns, low-cost surveillance, better treatment and medication options, and regional cooperation, the researchers write.
Despite the crisis, the researchers note that stroke “is highly preventable and treatable.” Lifestyle factors such as a healthy diet, regular physical activity and stopping smoking can reduce stroke risk, as can regular monitoring of conditions such as high blood pressure.