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9 Out of 10 Strokes Preventable

FILE - A stroke patient undergoes an electrocardiogram while recovering at Juntendo University Hospital in Tokyo.
FILE - A stroke patient undergoes an electrocardiogram while recovering at Juntendo University Hospital in Tokyo.

Ninety percent of strokes could be prevented, according to a new study.

Writing in The Lancet, researchers from Canada's McMaster University say 10 stroke risk factors “that can be modified are responsible for nine of 10 strokes worldwide.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 800,000 Americans suffer from strokes each year, making it the fifth leading cause of death.

There are two types of stroke, ischaemic strokes caused by blood clots and accounts for 85 percent of strokes, while hemorrhagic strokes or bleeding into the brain account for 15 percent of strokes.

The researchers say that by eliminating hypertension alone, the number of strokes could be nearly halved. The occurrence of stroke could be cut by a further 36 percent with more physical activity and by 19 percent by eating a more healthy diet. Reducing alcohol and tobacco intake also reduces the likelihood of strokes, as does reducing stress, researchers said.

Other factors included diabetes, obesity, heart conditions and cholesterol.

"This study has the size and scope to explore stroke risk factors in all major regions of the world and within key populations," said Martin O'Donnell, a Caster study co-lead.

"We have confirmed the 10 modifiable risk factors associated with 90 percent of stroke cases in all regions, young and older and in men and women. The study also confirms that hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor in all regions, and the key target in reducing the burden of stroke globally."

The researchers based their findings on data from nearly 27,000 people from around the world.

The role of each risk factor varied by region. For example hypertension was more of a risk in Southeast Asia than in North America.

These findings underscored previous research from the INTERSTERILE study, which identified risk factors associated with stroke among 6,000 subjects in 22 countries.

“Our findings will inform the development of global population-level interventions to reduce stroke, and how such programs may be tailored to individual regions, as we did observe some regional differences in the importance of some risk factors by region,” according to study author Slim Kyushu, a professor at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University.

“This includes better health education, more affordable healthy food, avoidance of tobacco and more affordable medication for hypertension and dyslipidaemia.”

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