Strokes Soaring For 40 And 50-Year Olds


By Dennis Campbell

The number of people in their 40s and 50s being afflicted by strokes is soaring, with obesity and sedentary lifestyles thought to be behind the rise.

The increase is alarming and shocking and the cost of treatment – already at £9bn a year – will increase.

The trend is “a sad indictment” of the nation’s health, the association said, and urged people to be more aware of the risk factors.

Official NHS data shows that the number of men aged 40 to 54 in England who were hospitalised after a stroke grew by 46% from 4,260 in 2000 to 6,221 last year. The figure for women of the same age was 4,604, up by 30% from 3,529.

Hospital admission data reveals a 25% jump in the number of people aged 20 to 64, suffering a stroke between 2000 and 2014.

“There is an alarming increase in the numbers of people having a stroke in working age”, said Jon Barrick, the charity’s chief executive. “These figures show that stroke can no longer be seen as a disease of older people. As the figures show, it can happen to anyone at any time”.

Rising numbers of overweight people help explain the increase among the middle-aged, he said. “We’ve known for some time that obesity levels in the UK have been on the rise, putting thousands at increased risk of a stroke. This goes some way in explaining these shocking stroke rates, which are a sad indictment of the current state of the UK’s health.

Stroke can no longer be seen as a disease of older people. As the figures show, it can happen to anyone at any time.

“There are now real concerns that excess weight could replace smoking as the major killer of adults in the near future.”

Research shows that being obese increases the chances of having a stroke related to a blood clot by 64%, although high blood pressure is still the biggest risk.

Barrick advised those at risk to take more exercise, eat a healthier diet and get their blood pressure checked regularly.

The overall stroke incidence rate fell from 141.97 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 115.50 per 100,000 in 2010, partly as result of the fall in smoking rates in recent decades. But the charity said the rise in hospital admission figures was due to the growing and ageing population and fact that the population’s health had deteriorated.

They also reflect the fact that hospitals have changed their admission criteria for stroke over recent years, which mean many more sufferers now receive emergency treatment. “But the progress we’ve made in transforming the way stroke is treated will be lost unless people take control of their health”, said Barrick.

The number of UK deaths from strokes fell from 87,974 in 1990 to 40,282 in 2013, thanks to greater awareness of its symptoms and better treatment, such as clot-busting drugs.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “Previous figures have shown a decline in the overall number of incidents of stroke. But we know certain factors such as diabetes and obesity increase the risk of stroke for people of all age groups”.

The NHS “five year forward” review, a blueprint for the service’s future, made clear that much more work was needed to prevent strokes from occurring in the first place, she added.

The charity warned that the rise would lead to more middle-aged people suffering a “heavy financial impact” as a result. Loss of income due to death and disability caused by a stroke has been estimated to cost those affected £1.3bn a year.

“Stroke survivors unable to return to work can struggle to cope with a fall in income, increased household bills and a benefits system which does not recognise the full impact of stroke,” Barrick said.

He highlighted a new survey of employers’ attitudes towards stroke by the charity which found that only 5% recognised cognitive difficulties as a symptom and 42% would be reluctant to hire a stroke survivor because of worries that they could not perform their role satisfactorily.

The Department of Health refused to comment directly on the rise but said: “Strokes can have a devastating impact on people and their families. Adopting a healthier lifestyle, like plenty of exercise and eating the right food, is really important to reduce the risk of stroke.”

The department’s Act F.A.S.T. Campaign was intended to save lives by alerting people to the symptoms, so that they could get potentially life-saving treatment quickly, she added.


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