Stroke affects around 17 million people globally and is widely recognised as one of the biggest killers in Australia. Nationally, over 53,000 strokes occur each year, of which one third will die in the first 12 months. Without prevention, the annual rate of strokes in Australia has been predicted to rise to 74,000 by 2017 due to the ageing of the population.
The pivotal eleven-year Perth Community Stroke Study, conducted from 1989 to 2001, focused on the trends of strokes in both men and women, and the frequency of risk factors that play a key role in the incidence of stroke. The project involved collaboration between leading stroke research centres, The George Institute, Royal Perth Hospital, the University of Western Australia and The University of Queensland.
"The study found that despite the population in inner-metropolitan Perth increasing over the eleven-year study period, the number of strokes declined significantly," said Professor Craig Anderson, Director of Neurological Disease and Mental Health at The George Institute.
Stroke rates were noted to fall faster in men, who experienced a 49% decline, compared to a 37% drop in the rate of stroke amongst women. Researchers believe this considerable reduction of stroke rates in Perth, WA can be attributed to the fact that stroke is preventable. The risk of experiencing a stroke is influenced by factors such as age, gender, family history, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, diet and exercise.
"Stroke has been an increasing health problem for Australians, which highlights the need to prioritise preventative strategies. These results are testament to the advances in approaches to prevention and management of stroke, including a more consistent range of health services available to the community. These results provide positive feedback on successes being made in the reduction in some risk factors and hence a reduction of stroke in the studied area", Professor Anderson added.
"We found significant reductions in the frequency of risk factors, including hypertension, smoking and history of heart disease. This suggests that people are 'getting the message' about leading healthy lifestyles and reducing their threat of this neurological condition," said Professor Konrad Jamrozik, Principal Investigator for the studies, of the University of Queensland.
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