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Strokes Up in China as Economy Booms

20-Year Study Shows Increase in Ischemic Strokes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 29, 2008 -- A new study shows the most common type of stroke increased almost 9% annually over a 20-year period in China as its economy boomed. At the same time, deaths from strokes decreased.

Ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke, are caused by blood clots.

"The changes in patterns of stroke have raised new challenges and the need to adjust priorities to prevent stroke in China," researcher Dong Zhao says in a news release.

Dong notes that "risk factors have become a new problem and challenge for public health in China."

The study, funded by the Chinese government and the World Health Organization and published in the journal Stroke, looked at nearly 14,600 strokes among people ages 25-74 in seven districts throughout Beijing from 1984 to 2004.

Unhealthy Lifestyle to Blame?

Risk factors for stroke include obesity, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking. The researchers write that other studies that approximately cover the same time period show that:

  • More and more people became obese or overweight, especially those who live in rural areas.
  • From 1983 to 2002, fat and daily cholesterol intake shot up in urban areas and nearly tripled in the countryside.
  • Cholesterol levels in the blood increased 24% from 1984 to 1999.
  • Diabetes skyrocketed 97% from 1994 to 2002.

Dong says cigarette smoking changed very little during the time of the study.

The study shows that the decrease in fatal strokes is likely due to improved health care such as control of high blood pressure and stroke treatment.

The researchers note that stroke is a top killer in China, estimated to be the "second or third leading cause of death, even with dramatic economic development in recent years."

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