Stroke affecting ever younger people

Ever younger people are suffering strokes, according to two studies published on Thursday that warned death, disability and illness from strokes could double by 2030, partly due to unhealthy lifestyles.

There had been a 25 per cent increase in the number of strokes among those aged between 20 and 64 over the past 20 years -- now making up 31 per cent of the total compared to 25 per cent before 1990, said the studies in The Lancet medical journal.

Under-75's now account for 62 per cent of new strokes, 45 per cent of deaths, and 72 per cent of illness and disability.

The researchers found that more than 83,000 people aged 20 and younger suffered strokes every year -- about 0.5 per cent of the total.

And they warned the shift in stroke burden towards younger people would continue unless urgent steps are taken to get people to improve unhealthy lifestyles -- mainly by reducing consumption of salt, calories, alcohol and tobacco.

They showed that in 2010, 61.5 per cent of disability and 51.7 per cent of deaths were caused by haemorrhagic strokes -- which occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and is mainly caused by high blood pressure and unhealthy lifestyles.

"Most affected are people younger than 75 years and those living in low-income and middle-income countries where incidence of haemorrhagic stroke has risen by around 19 per cent," said a statement.

Haemorrhagic strokes were half as common as ischaemic strokes, which are caused by an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.

The studies warned that disability, illness and death caused by stroke would more than double worldwide by 2030 -- especially in low and middle income countries.

"This is in part because of a rise in the prevalence of risk factors involving unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking in these countries," said the statement.