The number of people dying from a stroke in England has been halved in a decade, scientists have revealed.
Oxford University researchers found stroke deaths were slashed by around 55 per cent in the first ten years of the 21st century.
Better NHS care is likely boosting the chances of survival for patients who suffer a stroke, the experts suggested.
However, the research also discovered rates of strokes – a common cause of death – have risen by 20 per cent in people under the age of 55.
An expert behind the research told MailOnline this was likely because of rising rates of obesity and diabetes, as well as cocaine and alcohol use.
The number of people dying from a stroke has been halved in a decade, scientists have revealed, but rates of the event are increasing in under 55s
A graph shows stroke events and stroke deaths in both men and woman has declined between 2001 and 2010 in England
A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off or when a blood vessel ruptures.
Lead researcher Dr Olena Seminog said: ‘We could only speculate on the reasons for increased rates of stroke in young people.
‘But we think it is the increase in obesity and diabetes, as well as an nontraditional risk factors, including drug abuse, such as cocaine, and alcohol.’
Researchers analysed data from 950,000 strokes that occurred in England between 2001 and 2010.
Patients were all aged 20 or older and had been admitted to hospital with a stroke or died from one during the timeframe.
Of the almost one million strokes from 800,000 people, 337,000 resulted in death, the study revealed.
The average age at onset of stroke was 72 for men and 76 for women. Ages were slightly higher for deaths in both genders.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT A STROKE?
The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems like:
- arteries becoming clogged with fatty substances (atherosclerosis)
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol levels
An unhealthy diet can increase your chances of having a stroke because it may lead to an increase in your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
A low-fat, high-fibre diet is usually recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (5 A Day) and wholegrains.
You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day as too much salt will increase your blood pressure: 6g of salt is about 1 teaspoonful.
Regular exercise can maintain a healthy weight and help lower your cholesterol and keep your blood pressure healthy.
For most people, at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week is recommended.
Smoking significantly increases your risk of having a stroke. This is because it narrows your arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot.
Cut back on alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and trigger an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), both of which can increase your risk of having a stroke.
Because alcoholic drinks are high in calories, they also cause weight gain. Heavy drinking multiplies the risk of stroke by more than 3 times
In men, death rates decreased from 140 per 100,000 in 2001 to 74 per 100,000 in 2010, the researchers wrote in the BMJ.
And the rate for women plummeted from 128 per 100,000 in 2001 to 72 per 100,000 in 2010.
The largest annual reduction was in those aged 65 to 74, with an 8.1 per cent drop among men in that age group and 8.3 per cent in women.
Deaths from stroke have been falling worldwide for several decades, but the exact reasons are unclear.
It was unclear whether the reduction was due to a drop in the number of strokes occurring, the number dying, or a combination of the two.
The researchers found most of the decline – 78 per cent in men and 66 per cent in women – was due to a reduction in case fatality, which decreased by 40 per cent overall in all age groups.
Dr Olena Seminog, of Oxford University’s Big Data Institute, said that the remaining 22 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively, was due to a reduction in event rates, which decreased by 20 per cent overall.
Dr Seminog said: ‘Our findings show that most of the reduction in stroke mortality is a result of improved survival of patients with stroke.’
The findings indicate that, ‘although prevention was effective in reducing stroke event rates in older people, it failed in the young’.
Dr Seminog said: ‘Doctors might be less likely to pay attention to the risk factors in people under 55.
‘The other important issue here is that traditionally stroke is perceived as a disease of old age, rightfully so, because the bulk of strokes happen in people 80 years or older.
‘As a result young people might not think about how their life style might increase their risk of stroke, and abuse alcohol and drugs.
‘They may have low awareness of stroke risks and signs.’
A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is a warning sign that a person is at risk of having a full stroke in the near future, as little as two weeks.
But many younger people brush the symptoms of TIA off, including a tingly face and hands, blurred vision and confusion, Dr Seminog said.
Mark McDonald, deputy director of Policy and Influencing at the Stroke Association, said: ‘Stroke can strike anyone – young, old and everyone in between.
‘In the UK, one in four strokes happen to people of working age, and in general people are having strokes earlier in their lives.’
WHAT IS A STROKE?
There are two kinds of stroke:
1. ISCHEMIC STROKE
An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.
2. HEMORRHAGIC STROKE
The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.
It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.
Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching the hospital. A further 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.
Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.
SYMPTOMS OF A STROKE
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.
This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.
Both are potentially fatal, and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.