Strokes can be devastating to those who suffer from them. In the United States approximately 795,000 people will have a stroke each year, and 75% of those are first time occurrences. Almost 130,000 of those patients will die from the stroke, making it the 5th
leading cause of death. It’s one of the top causes of long-term disability and the leading cause of preventable disability of any length. The most common kind of stroke is an ischemic stroke, which results when a blood clot, having formed in another part of the body travels to the brain. A clot disrupts the flow of oxygen rich blood to the brain and can result in permanent loss of motor function, memory and speech.
A new study has some good news for one group of patients, but some not so good news for another group. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that baby boomers born between the years of 1945 and 1954 have the lowest incidence of ischemic stroke during the past two decades. The study, conducted at the Cardiovascular Institute of New Jersey at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, found people in this age group had a significantly decreased incidence of stroke. However, the news was not so good for their younger friends. Generation X’ers born between the years 1965 and 1974 saw their rate of ischemic stroke more than double in the same time period.
Joel N. Swerdel, lead author of the study said in a press release,"The incidence of stroke has decreased significantly overall since 1950, due to the advancement of medicine. However, we found that trend to be reversing in younger generations where obesity and diabetes are likely causing an increase in cardiovascular disease." While Swerdel is now a manager of epidemiology analytics at a pharmaceutical company, he led the study under the direction of John B. Kostis, John G. Detwiler Professor of Cardiology and director of the Cardiovascular Institute of New Jersey.
Using data gleaned from the Myocardial Infarction Data Acquisition System (MIDAS), a statewide database of all admissions to non-federal hospitals in New Jersey the team analyzed more than 225,000 records of stroke data compiled between 1995 and 2014. The data was divided into five age groups, each including a 10-year age range of patients. Out of these five groups, only one age bracket showed a reduction in stroke and it was those who were born between 1945 and 1954 and who are now between 60 and 70 years old. Those born in the 20 years before 1945 had higher rates of stroke likely because statin drugs and blood pressure medications were not as advanced when these patients were being treated. It’s the increase in the number of strokes in the group of patients in their 30s and 40s that was troubling.
Kostis, who was the principal investigator of the study explained, "A higher incidence of stroke in individuals born before 1945 was not surprising, as they did not benefit from the availability of lipid-lowering drugs, such as statins and anti-hypertensive therapy, as did younger generations. However, the increasing incidence of stroke in the youngest generation--those who are between the ages of 35 and 50--is alarming and merits further research."
The team cited factors such as poor adherence to treatment, the rising rates of obesity and subsequently diabetes and an increase in smoking and alcohol use in as possible reasons for the uptick in strokes in this younger population. While the database was limited to patients in New Jersey, the team felt it was a sample diverse enough to apply to most parts of the country. No differences in trends were found between males and females or by race or ethnic background. The video below includes an interview with a cardiologist about this alarming trend.
Sources: American Heart Association
, Stroke Association.org
, Journal of the American Heart Association
, New York Daily News