A new report from Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation has shown that the country has made large improvements in stroke treatment and prevention, but may soon be faced with greater challenges. According to the report, people who experience strokes are more likely to have better health outcomes than they would have just a few years ago. However, the nation may soon have to brace for an increase in the number of strokes.
Strokes and heart disease become more likely as people age, with men over 45 and post-menopausal women over 55 having the highest cardiovascular risk, according to the Canadian government. As the population ages, higher incidence of the two conditions is also expected. However, 90 percent of Canadians over age 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. The Heart and Stroke Foundation reported that people are now more likely to have strokes at a young age than ever and predicted that the trend will continue. Strokes most often occur in people over 70, but the organization's report found that they've increased 24 percent for people in their 50s and 13 percent for those in their 60s. The rate of strokes is predicted to double for people between 20 and 64 in the next 15 years.
Despite increasing risk for the condition, the Heart and Stroke Foundation was optimistic about the outlook for patients. Over the last 60 years, the death rate from strokes fell 75 percent, the organization reported. In 2013, there were 165,000 stroke survivors in Canada. However, this progress also represents an increased burden on the health care system, as more people will now need to seek follow-up treatment for the effects of stroke, such as further hospitalizations or admission to assisted living facilities.
Opportunities for better care
People admitted to Canadian hospitals after strokes also show more complex health problems now than those who had strokes in previous decades. Conditions such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease are found in people with strokes more commonly than ever, with two-thirds of people admitted to hospitals for the conditions also having at least one chronic disease. This can complicate the treatment needed after a stroke and increase the burden on caregivers, patients and the health care system.
Although advances have been made nationally in treating and preventing strokes, not all areas of the country are dealing with the problem equally well. People in Quebec and Alberta have a better chance of surviving a stroke than the average Canadian, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, while those in Newfoundland and Labrador have the worst outcomes.
Surviving and preventing strokes
Regardless of national or regional trends, the ways of preventing and treating strokes are the same. The Heart and Stroke Foundation stressed that timing and coordination are critical for increasing survival rates of people who have had a stroke and helping them recover without major disabilities. Due to that, a population that can spot the signs of stroke may be one of the country's best assets for treatment. Since the effects of strokes often keep people who are experiencing them from finding help on their own, being able to recognize the signs in others may be vital.
The Stroke and Heart Foundation recommended seeking medical assistance for people who suddenly show the following symptoms:
- Trouble speaking, seeing or understanding
- Numbness or pain in the face, arms or legs
- Severe headache or dizziness
In terms of prevention, common heart health and senior care recommendations may also reduce the reduce of strokes. Stress management, limiting cigarettes and alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining an active lifestyle could all play a part in bringing down Canada's stroke rate.