“Stroke has finally been recognized at international level – for example at the UN Post-2015 Sustainable Development summit – as one of the core diseases globally in need of prevention, improved management and continued surveillance,” Bo Norrving, Professor of Neurology at Lund University, Sweden, said at the World Congress of Neurology (WCN 2015). About 3,500 participants are gathered in the Chilean capital Santiago for the world's leading neurology event. “This reflects the high burden the disease imposes on individuals, their families and societies. Stroke is the second leading cause of death, and the most common cause of disability in adults. Modern neurology is making major advances in the prevention, therapy and rehabilitation of stroke. Nonetheless, the disorder still poses major challenges,” he added.
The latest data on the incidence, prevalence, mortality and socioeconomic consequences of stroke at global, regional and national levels have been published just in time for World Stroke Day on 29 October in a special issue of the journal Neuroepidemiology (www.karger.com/ned), “The Global Burden of Stroke”, which is co-edited by Prof Norrving. These papers are offered open access to readers worldwide. One of the major findings of the comprehensive research programme which assesses mortality and disability from major diseases, injuries and risk factors is that there is still no country in the world, where the burden of stroke, in terms of the absolute number of individuals affected by or dying from stroke, has declined over the last two decades. The bulk of stroke burden continues to be borne by developing countries. The overall incidence of stroke in younger adults is increasing globally and now represents almost half of the total burden.
“At this year’s WCN the spotlight is firmly on the strong link between the two largest neurological diseases: stroke and dementia. One in three people will develop either of these,” noted Prof Norrving. “The pathologies of both conditions seem to interact, and it is important to point out that they have virtually the same risk factors, which include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, obesity or lack of physical activity. These findings represent an opportunity to prevent or delay both conditions.”
The potential for modifying risk factors is set to be underlined in a WCN lecture by the internationally renowned stroke expert Prof Vladimir Hachinski from Western University, London, Canada. “In the past 20 years, stroke incidence has increased by 225 percent in low and middle income countries while it has declined by 42 percent in high income countries”, he said. “Trends in the latter also reflect decreasing incidence of dementia. The data suggests that the big differences are not due to changes in the genetic makeup, but improvements in risk factor control,” he concluded.