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Alarms Ring After Increase in U.S. Stroke Deaths: CDC

Alarms Ring After Increase in U.S. Stroke Deaths: CDC

After 40 years of decline, the progress in preventing stroke deaths has stalled in the United States, and government health officials say it might even be reversing.

From 2013-2015 the number of stroke deaths rose significantly among Hispanics and in the south of the country according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“This report is a wake-up call because 80 percent of strokes are preventable,” said CDC research scientist Quanhe Yang, the lead author on the report.

He also added that, “More than ever, we need to direct our efforts to reduce stroke risk factors and improve the quality of care.”

Every year in the US almost 800,000 people suffer a stroke and of these, over 140,000 die while many of the survivors go on to suffer long-term disability, Yang said.

“Every 40 seconds in the United States, someone has a stroke,” states CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald.

As well as this, “stroke costs the nation $34 billion annually,” she added.

Research indicates that high blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke that is not only preventable but treatable. Other factors that affect the chances of a stroke include high cholesterol, smoking and physical inactivity.

Between the years 2000 to 2015 the rate of stroke deaths decreased by 38 percent however the biggest decrease (7 percent per annum) took place between 2003 and 2006 while the following 8 years recorded a decline in rate to only 3 percent per annum. More than this, between 2013 to 2015 there was a 2.5 percent annual increase although researchers state that this is “nonsignificant”.

Yang went on to add that there have been multiple factors playing a part in the slowed decline in stroke deaths including increasing rates of both obesity and diabetes.

“More than one in three American adults are obese. Obesity causes high blood pressure,” Yang stated. He also explained that around 30 million American adults live with type 2 diabetes with is also considered a factor for stroke.

The CDC said Americans are now suffering strokes at younger ages than ever.

“Despite popular belief, strokes don’t only impact older people,” said Robert Merritt, an expert at the CDC’s division of heart disease and stroke prevention. “Our data shows an increasing number of middle-aged adults having strokes, which can cause life long disability.”

There are ways of combatting both the risk of suffering a stroke and also the chances of suffering stroke death at any age according to Yang.

He said, “To bring the stroke rate down we need to adopt a healthy lifestyle and control risk factors.”

These factors include not smoking, eating a healthy diet that is low in salt and added sugar while being fruit and vegetable rich, living a physically active lifestyle and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Yang went on to add that, “if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, keep them under control.”

By learning to recognize the signs of a stroke and understanding what to do in these situations it is possible to save live, Yang said.

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when an artery leading to the brain becomes blocked or there is bleeding into the brain. In this situation, Yang said, to call 911 and get to a hospital as quickly as possible.

The symptoms to look out for include face drooping, arm weakness and numbness, or difficulty with speech.

Yang finished by saying, “Hopefully, we can regain the momentum of a declining stroke death rate.”

Some other key findings from the CDC’s “Vital Signs” report include:

  • The number of blacks dying from a stroke is still higher than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • From 2013 to 2015 the number of Hispanics dying as a result of stroke increased 6 percent per year.
  • The rates of stroke death rose 4 percent per year between 2013 to 2015 in the South.
  • Stroke death rates decreased in 38 states as well as the District of Columbia from 2000 to 2015.
  • The number of stroke deaths jumped nearly 11 percent per year between 2013 to 2015 in Florida.

Fitzgerald said, “We have made great progress in reducing stroke deaths over the past few decades, but this report shows it’s time to increase our efforts. We cannot afford to be complacent when so many deaths can be prevented.”


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