‘Shocking’ rise in number of working age stroke victims, health charity warns

Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
A growing number of middle aged men and women in the UK are suffering strokes due to unhealthy lifestyles, a charity has warned.

The Stroke Association described the increase as “shocking” and said strokes are no longer the preserve of older people.

NHS data indicates there were 6,221 stroke-related hospital admissions in England for men aged 40-54 – a 46 percent increase on the 4,260 men admitted in 2000.

Some 4,604 women of the same age were admitted for stroke-related problems, a 30-percent jump from the 3,529 admissions in 2000.

Despite these figures, overall stroke rates in the UK are falling, as medical staff are getting better at spotting the signs of stroke and new drugs can be used to treat people rapidly.

Strokes are caused by a blockage or bleed in the brain, which cuts off the blood supply, depriving brain cells of oxygen and essential nutrients.

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Severe strokes can lead to death, while lesser strokes can cause long-lasting disabilities.

Young people are not immune to strokes either, as hospital data indicates a 25-percent rise in the number of people aged 20 to 64 suffering a stroke between 2000 and 2014.

Jon Barrick, the Stroke Association’s chief executive, said: “There is an alarming increase in the numbers of people having a stroke in working age.

These figures show that stroke can no longer be seen as a disease of older people.

"As the figures show, it can happen to anyone at any time.”

Experts partly attribute the rising number of strokes afflicting people of working age to growing obesity levels.

Being obese increases the risk of having a stroke caused by blood clot by 64 percent, according to research.

Blood pressure is the biggest risk, however. Some 40 percent of strokes could be avoided if high blood pressure was kept under control.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “Previous figures have shown a decline in the overall number of incidents of stroke.

"But we know certain factors such as diabetes and obesity increase the risk of stroke for people of all age groups," she added.

Stroke victims and their families suffer a total financial cost of £1.3 billion a year through loss of income caused by death or disability.

According to a recent survey of employers, some 42 percent of bosses would be reluctant to hire a stroke survivor over worries they could not perform their role satisfactorily.

Stroke survivors unable to return to work can struggle to cope with a fall in income, increased household bills and a benefits system which does not recognize the full impact of stroke,” Barrick said.

Having a stroke is bad enough, but being written off by your employer through a lack of understanding can be catastrophic,” he added.

The risk of having a stroke can be limited by regularly checking blood pressure, eating healthily, cutting down on cholesterol raising food, drinking responsibly and exercising on a regular basis.