Posted by Lisa O’Neill Hill Jan 29 2015
Stroke, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States in 2012, dropped to the fifth leading cause in 2013, according to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings are significant and indicate that prevention and intervention efforts are making a difference, an expert in neurology and epidemiology said.
“In this case, the wonderful take-home message is that the decline is real,” said Daniel T. Lackland, professor of epidemiology in the department of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina. Programs of all kinds designed to decrease the impact of stroke are working, he said.
“These statistics are really providing us with some good information that we’re moving in the right direction. We’re not where we need to be, though,” he said.
The 10 leading causes of death in 2013—heart disease and cancer were the number one and two killers—were the same as in 2012, but two causes, stroke and “unintentional injuries,” switched places.
More than 130,500 people died from unintentional injuries in the U.S. in 2013; just under 129,000 people died from stroke, the data shows.
While it’s too early to know exactly why the stroke numbers went down, interventions like the clot-buster tPA likely are a factor, Lackland said.
“We know that management of blood pressure has a major impact here yet only 50 percent of people with high blood pressure have it under control,” he said.
According to Lackland, stroke deaths, stroke incidence, and recurrent strokes are all on the decline.
“It means the clinicians are doing a good job of keeping people alive so that they become stroke survivors,” he said.
However, research shows that people are having strokes at a younger age. A study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that the increase could be attributed to a rise in risk factors like diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol. Lackland said high blood pressure is also a significant problem.
“We’re seeing higher blood pressure at younger ages,” he said.
Overall, though, the data shows good news when it comes to stroke. It’s evidence that education efforts and medical intervention are saving lives.
“We’ve seen a decline in stroke mortality for almost the past 100 years,” Lackland said. “What’s exciting about this data is that you see the decline is greater since we’ve had programs designed and implemented specifically to reduce stroke mortality.”
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