Stroke Rates Declining Among Seniors, Study Shows
But, rate of brain attacks among those younger than 65 unchanged
By Dennis Thompson
TUESDAY, July 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors in America are suffering fewer strokes, regardless of their race or sex, a new long-term study reveals.
"We found that stroke incidence [among those 65 and older] has been declining for the last 20 years," said senior study author Dr. Josef Coresh, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.
"Our study found that the decrease is happening in whites and blacks, which is very important because blacks are at an elevated risk of stroke," he added.
However, people younger than 65 continued to suffer strokes at about the same rate, although the researchers found that more of these younger patients survived their stroke.
The stroke death rate for people aged 65 and older held steady.
One expert found some of the study results troubling.
"The more concerning news is the lack of decline [in stroke rates] among those under 65," said Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "When you look at that statistic in relationship to recent warnings that diabetes, obesity and lack of physical activity are still major problems that have not been reduced in the last decade, this raises some red flags."
As for the reduced death rate among younger stroke victims, "that may mean our ability to treat and improve survival after stroke is better in younger people," Sacco said.
On the other hand, stroke rates likely are declining in older people due to improved treatment of risk factors for stroke, Coresh said.
For example, use of cholesterol-lowering medications increased from just under 4 percent to nearly 13 percent over time in these patients, with an accompanying decline in "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. At the same time, use of blood pressure medications increased from about 29 percent to 43 percent in that same period, an increase seen predominantly among people older than 65.
The number of current smokers also declined during the course of the study, the researchers noted.