Quarter of strokes now occur in under-65s

Middle-aged men may be ignoring health advice, Irish Heart Foundation warns

The Irish Heart Foundation said there should be some campaigns targeting middle-aged men specifically. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

The Irish Heart Foundation said there should be some campaigns targeting middle-aged men specifically. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

 

One in four strokes now occur in under-65s, according to new figures from the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF).

The figure is up from 19 per cent in 2009. This is the equivalent of more than 300 extra strokes among people of working age every year.

Middle-aged men in particular may be ignoring advice aimed at preventing stroke, the IHF suggested.

It said significant new investment was needed for prevention programmes, and health and community care for younger stroke survivors.

Overall, more women die from stroke, but three-quarters of strokes among the younger age categories are occurring in men.

Forty per cent of the younger stroke sufferers are smokers, compared to a national smoking rate of 20 per cent.

The IHF said the incidence among people already diagnosed with high blood pressure was also “worryingly high”.

Research in the UK has attributed this trend to increasingly sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles.

Complex

“This raises the distinct possibility that whilst people in older age groups are acting on advice and information campaigns to minimise their risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease generally, middle-aged men are not, perhaps because they do not understand their level of risk.”

IHF head of advocacy Chris Macey said the statistics showed stroke could no longer be seen as only a disease of older people. “People of working age are now accounting for one in four of all strokes and the rate is growing rapidly in spite of Ireland’s ageing population.”

He said prevention campaigns should be used to target middle-aged men.

Devastating

A recent survey showed less than one-third of survivors had returned to work full-time a year after their stroke.

“Having a stroke is a devastating experience, the impact of which could be significantly reduced by the development of better community health, social care and vocational services that can provide enormous help on the road to recovery, whilst also benefiting society as a whole both socially and economically,” Mr Macey said.

While stroke outcomes have improved greatly in terms of reduced death and disability rates, specialists say after-stroke care remains a poor relation.

They want an expansion in early supported discharge programmes to enable stroke survivors to be discharged quicker and to receive intensive therapy services in their own homes. Ten per cent of Irish survivors benefit from this form of discharge programme, compared with 30 per cent in the UK.