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Stroke Costs Reaching Trillions

Without Action, Financial Cost of Strokes to Reach $2.2 Trillion by 2050
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 16, 2006 -- The financial cost of strokes in the U.S. will soar to more than $2.2 trillion over the next 45 years if no action is taken to improve preventive care or treatment, according to a new study.

Researchers say much of the bill for those stroke-related costs will be for black and Latino stroke patients, who tend to suffer from strokes at an earlier age and receive poorer preventive care.

In fact, about half of the stroke-related costs by 2050 -- including treatment, rehabilitation, and lost wages -- will come from stroke victims under the age of 65.

Researchers say the $2.2 trillion economic burden is actually a conservative estimate because it is based on current rates of the conditions that put people at risk for stroke, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, which are currently on the rise.

"Doing the right thing now ultimately could be cost-saving in the future, but we have a long way to go before all Americans receive adequate stroke prevention and emergency stroke care," says researcher Devin Brown, MD, MS, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School, in a news release. "If our society is not going to do it for the right reasons, perhaps we can do it because it's going to be obscenely expensive."

Stroke is currently the third leading cause of death in the U.S. About 700,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, and 157,000 die from strokes.

Cost of Strokes Soaring

In the study, published in Neurology, researchers estimated the future economic burden of the most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke, from 2005 to 2050. Ischemic strokes account for 80% of all strokes and are caused by a clot or clogged blood vessel that blocks blood flow in the brain.

Researchers estimated both direct stroke costs, such as ambulance services, hospitalization, rehabilitation, nursing home costs, and drugs, as well as indirect costs like lost wages for stroke patients under 65. Studies show nearly half of stroke survivors under the age of 65 do not return to work.

The total cost of stroke for the next 45 years was projected to be $1.5 trillion for non-Hispanic whites, $313 billion for Hispanics, and $379 billion for blacks.

Minorities Face Greater Stroke Costs

The total per patient cost was highest for blacks ($25,782), followed by Hispanics ($17,201) and whites ($15,597). Lost wages was the biggest contributor to stroke cost among all races.

"Because members of the two largest minority groups have their strokes earlier than non-Hispanic whites, the impact of lost earnings is greater than non-Hispanic whites per capita," says Brown.

For example, only 2% of whites under the age of 65 are estimated to have a stroke, compared with 2.3% of Hispanics and 4.8% of blacks. Researchers say differences in risk factors (obesity, diabetes, and heart disease), genetics and health care may account for much of this difference.

In addition, minority groups are expected to account for a much larger proportion of the population by the year 2050. Latinos currently make up 13% of the U.S. population and are expected to increase to 25% by 2050, and blacks are expected to grow from 12% to 14% of the national population by 2050.

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