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The Worldwide Impact of Strokes: By the Numbers

January 12, 2016 | Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC | Comments

I think being aware of the incidence of certain diseases is empowering, particularly when it comes to making decisions about your health now that can have far-reaching consequences later on. One thing that I believe everyone should know about is the incidence of stroke. Why? Because it is extremely prevalent throughout the world. Transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as stroke, is the second-leading cause of death and disability globally. Many of my patients are shocked when we go over numbers like this, but I think that it's necessary to understand that this can happen to anyone. With awareness comes the ability to lower your risk now and give yourself and your loved ones a better chance of surviving or avoiding it altogether. Let's examine some of the worldwide statistics surrounding stroke to gain an increased understanding of its incidence and who is at risk.

Facts and Figures

  • Around 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke every year.
  • Of that 15 million, 5 million do not survive and 5 million are left permanently disabled.
  • Globally, it's the second-leading cause of death in people over the age of 60 and the fifth-leading cause of death in people ages 15 to 59.
  • In 2009, 34% of stroke victims were under the age of 65.

Causes of Stroke

  • Heart disease is one of the leading causes of stroke in those older than 60.
  • High blood pressure causes around 12.7 million strokes worldwide.
  • For those who are younger, often, stroke is caused by high blood pressure or sickle cell disease.

Who's at Risk

  • For those in developing countries, the incidence of stroke is actually increasing, while in more developed first-world countries, the incidence of stroke is declining due to increased awareness about high blood pressure health and a decline in smoking.
  • Every year, Europe averages around 650,000 stroke deaths.
  • Projections in developing counties are not positive and indicate that if things do not change, stroke occurrence is expected to triple in places like sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
  • In China, around 1.3 million people have a stroke each year, and 75% of sufferers are left with varying degrees of disability as a result.
  • Race plays a major role in the occurrence of stroke. Stroke risk for African Americans is nearly double the risk for Caucasians. People of Hispanic origin tend to fall in the middle of this range. Native Americans are also more likely to have a stroke than other racial groups.

What can you do with this knowledge? Put it to good use! The best thing you can do is first to allow it to influence your health decisions. If you smoke, take steps to start quitting. If you're concerned about a loved one, let that be a resource for you to show them that this is a serious disease. Support initiatives that increase awareness about the dangers of high blood pressure worldwide. One final recommendation: Consider educating yourself on the causes of stroke and the signs that a stroke has occurred so you can be more prepared should the worst happen to someone you love.


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