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Strokes Could Cause Nearly 10 Million Deaths Annually by 2050: Report

Strokes Could Cause Nearly 10 Million Deaths Annually by 2050: Report

Strokes are the second leading cause of death around the world, causing 6.6 million deaths in 2020. That number is expected to hit 9.7 million in 2050.

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(CNN) — The number of people who die from stroke worldwide will jump 50 percent by 2050 if no significant action is taken to limit the prevalence of stroke and its risk factors, according to a new report from the World Stroke Organization-Lancet Neurology Commission, a new group formed to forecast the condition’s epidemiological and economic impacts.

Stroke is the second leading cause of death around the world, according to the World Health Organization, causing 6.6 million deaths in 2020. That number is expected to hit 9.7 million in 2050,according to the report.

“The gaps in stroke services across the world are catastrophic. We need a drastic improvement today, not in 10 years,” Dr. Sheila Martins, president of the World Stroke Organization, said in a statement.

The researchers conducted a qualitative analysis of interviews with 12 stroke experts from six high-income countries and six low- and middle-income countries while considering factors such as population growth and aging.

They found some key barriers to high-quality surveillance, prevention, care and rehabilitation. These include low awareness of stroke and its risk factors, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, poor diet and smoking.

Most of these projectedstroke deaths – 91percent – will occur in low- and middle-income countries, the report says.

However, Commission Co-chair Dr. Mayowa Owolabi of the University of Ibadan in Nigeria says people living at the poverty level in high-income countries like the United States are also at higher risk.

“Even within high-income countries, there are inequalities,” he said. “Unequal exposure to some of these risk factors that are not treated, or they’re poorly controlled.”

An increase in strokes takes not only a physical toll on the global population but also a financial one.

“Stroke exerts an enormous toll on the world’s population, leading to the death and permanent disability of millions of people each year, and costing billions of dollars,” said Dr. Valery Feigin of the Auckland University of Technology, a co-chair of the commission.

The researchers project that the cost of treating and supporting stroke patients could also double from $891 billion in 2020 to $2.3 trillion in 2050. Most of these impacts will be felt in Africa and Asia, they said.

“One of the most common problems in implementing stroke prevention and care recommendations is the lack of funding. Our commission recommends introducing legislative regulations and taxations of unhealthy products (such as salt, alcohol, sugary drinks, trans-fats) by each and every government in the world,” Feigin noted in a statement.

The introduction of telemedicine could be transformative, Martins said.

“A huge problem is, sometimes [countries] have the system, they have the medication, but they don’t have doctors to give a treatment,” she said. “This can really increase the access to treatments for specialists.”

The researchers behind the new report developed 12 evidence-based recommendations to help prevent strokes worldwide, including establishing low-cost surveillance systems, raising public awareness and establishing effective acute stroke care.

Last month, the World Health Organization released a report identifying hypertension as one of the world’s leading risk factorsfor death and disability. High blood pressure is also one of the key risk factors for stroke.

The best way to prevent both stroke and hypertension is to keep a healthy diet and a healthy weight, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and exercise regularly, experts say.

Strokes are often identified by a sudden severe headache, vision problems in one or both eyes, trouble walking, paralysis or numbness in the face or limbs, and trouble speaking or understanding others, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are two main types of stroke: ischemicand hemorrhagic. Most are ischemic, when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked by clots or particles like fatty deposits called plaque, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures, it’s called a hemorrhagic stroke.

If blood is blocked for only a short time – a few minutes – that’s called a transient ischemic attack (or TIA) or a mini-stroke. These attacks are still a medical emergency and could be a warning sign of a future stroke.

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Amanda Musa