Stroke Rates Falling For Seniors [Study]

Stroke rates for senior citizens have been taking a tumble over the past 20 years, according to a new study issued by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

The findings, published in the July 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and first reported online by MedicineNet.com, indicate that seniors in America are experiencing fewer strokes, regardless of race or sex.

“We found that stroke incidence [among those 65 and older] has been declining for the last 20 years,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Josef Coresh, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg.

“Our study found that the decrease is happening in whites and blacks, which is very important because blacks are at an elevated risk of stroke,” he added.

However, he noted, people younger than 65 continued to see little change in their stroke rates, although more of these younger patients survived their stroke.

Stroke death rates for people aged 65 and older held steady. But while this certainly sounds like good news, at least one expert found a few of the results troubling.

“The more concerning news is the lack of decline [in stroke rates] among those under 65,” said Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “When you look at that statistic in relationship to recent warnings that diabetes, obesity and lack of physical activity are still major problems that have not been reduced in the last decade, this raises some red flags.”

To the reduced death rate among younger stroke victims, he said, “that may mean our ability to treat and improve survival after stroke is better in younger people.”

Coresh noted that stroke rates are probably declining in older Americans “due to improved treatment of risk factors for stroke.”

MedicineNet shares this example to further emphasize the point:

For example, use of cholesterol-lowering medications increased from just under 4 percent to nearly 13 percent over time in these patients, with an accompanying decline in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels. At the same time, use of blood pressure medications increased from about 29 percent to 43 percent in that same period, an increase seen predominantly among people older than 65.”

The amount of current smokers also declined throughout the study, researchers noted.

You can check out more on the study over at MedicineNet.

Do you think stroke rates remaining the same in younger Americans is a cause of future concern for our healthcare system? Share your thoughts in our comments section.

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