"The report reveals a shocking disparity between rich and poor, where death rates from stroke are up to ten times higher in lower-income countries," said Jon Barrick, chief executive of the London-based Stroke Association. "At least half of strokes could be prevented if people made simple lifestyle changes, such as keeping blood pressure under control and exercising more."
While the study focused on stroke trends across ages and geographical locations and not the reasons behind the trends, the authors said unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and smoking are probably leading to the rise of strokes among the young in poorer countries. Obesity and excessive weight put a strain on the entire circulatory system, tending to raise cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes risk -- all of which can increase the risk of stroke.
In high-income nations, reductions in the incidence of stroke and premature death rates over the last 20 years "probably reflect improved education, prevention and care, and diagnosis," the researchers said. That suggests that education among the elderly can successfully lower stroke rates.
"The worldwide stroke burden is growing very fast and there is now an urgent need for culturally acceptable and affordable stroke prevention, management and rehabilitation strategies," Valery Feigin, a professor at the Auckland University of Technology and co-author of study, said in a statement.