This blog was contributed by Jelena Misita, Communication Manager for the Stroke Alliance for Europe. SAFE is a member of the World Stroke Organisation and supports the World Stroke Campaign.
Stroke is a humanitarian catastrophe happening in Europe as we speak. A combination of otherwise welcome factors - people are living longer and with better access to healthcare - has led to more people having and surviving stroke and more people being left with disabilities. The result is that the overall burden of stroke in Europe is set to rise dramatically over the next 20 years. This is why it essential that we understand and take action to prevent stroke from happening in the first place.
For better prevention, we need more raising awareness campaigns, supported by governments, medics and stroke support organisations. Ten risk factors are accountable for 90% of strokes and people should be aware that stroke can be prevented if these risk factors are properly controlled.
While age, gender and family background cannot be influenced, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, as some of the most important risk factors for stroke, should be better known, controlled and treated to prevent stroke.
While death rates from stroke have been falling over the last twenty years, your chance of dying from a stroke varies greatly according to where in Europe you live. Currently, rates of deaths from stroke in different countries range from 30 per 100,000 of the population to 170 per 100,000 of the population.
Despite most European countries having guidelines for risk factors such as high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, there is significant under-treatment. And well below half of all people treated for high blood pressure, for example, are actually on enough medication to get their blood pressure below the desired target level.
Across Europe primary and secondary prevention strategies are not working well enough to control hypertension, the biggest risk factor for stroke.
The projections in the Burden of Stroke Report (Stroke Alliance for Europe, 2017) indicate that between 2015 and 2035, overall there will be a 34% increase in total number of stroke events in the European Union from 613,148 in 2015 to 819,771 in 2035. The number of people living with stroke as a chronic condition from 3,718,785 in 2015 to 4,631,050 in 2035, an increase of almost one million or 25% across the EU.
This means the direct healthcare cost of stroke estimated at €20 billion in 2015 and total healthcare and non-healthcare costs of 45 billion euros are set to grow even further. On top of those figures the Informal care costs of around €16 billion in the EU in 2015. Furthermore, GDP losses due to death and morbidity add another €9.4 billion to the tally.
With risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and atrial fibrillation on the rise, the health of Europe in its broadest sense requires urgent coordinated action on stroke.