Stroke deaths down thanks to treatment and prevention

Deaths caused by stroke have declined in recent decades, according to a statement from the American Heart Association.

Medical experts are saying the news is one of the most notable public health achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries.

"The decline is real, not a statistical fluke or the result of more people dying of lung disease, the third leading cause of death," said Dr. Daniel T. Lackland, chair of the statement-writing committee that published the paper in the journal Stroke.

What's working?

The researchers note that the improved mortality rates can't be attributed to just one or two specific measures, but that public health efforts that have been implemented since the 1970s – like lowering blood pressure – are making a difference.

"Policymakers now have evidence that the money spent on stroke research and programs aimed at stroke prevention and treatment have been spent wisely and lives have been saved," Lackland said.

Programs that target smoking cessation, better diabetes control and faster medical treatment are also factors that have helped lower stroke death rates, the paper explained.

Some groups still at risk

While stroke deaths have dropped in men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, disparities in risk still exist, Lackland said. Efforts to lower blood pressure, quit smoking, exercise more and eat less salt are all measures individuals can take to lower their risk, he noted.

"We need to keep doing what works and to better target these programs to groups at higher risk," Lackland concluded.

Source: American Heart Association

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