“If just 10% of adults began walking regularly, Americans could save $5.6 billion in costs related to heart disease.” – President George W. Bush, 2002.Each year 15 million people suffer strokes according to the World Health Organization.
While stroke mortality has fallen 37 percent in high-income countries such as the United States, strokes as an absolute number, especially among young people, have increased worldwide, thanks in part to the growing population and the aging of that population. A study published in The Lancet Global Health found that the burden of stroke—illness and death—has shifted from people older than 75 to the group younger than 75.
The WHO expresses the overall burden of a disease in a measurement called the disability-adjusted life year (DALY). This is a measurement that takes into account the number of years lost due to premature death due to a disease and the time spent disabled by a disease. One DALY is equal to one year of healthy life. Worldwide, stroke burden is projected to rise from its 1990 levels of 38 million DALYs to 61 million DALYs in 2020. Despite what would look like a high rate of success dealing with the disease, fully one third of individuals who have strokes die and another third are left permanently disabled. In the United States, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and THE leading cause of adult disability according to the Stroke Association.
The most important risk factors for stroke are hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and smoking. The highest risk factor and one that is modifiable is high blood pressure. For every ten people who die of stroke, four could have been saved if their blood pressure had been regulated. For individuals under the age of 65, two-fifths of stroke related deaths are linked to smoking. Other contributors are obesity, unhealthy diet, and excessive alcohol.
People already experiencing poor health often believe that changing their lifestyle to a healthy one is beyond them but a Swedish study found that while being active and exercising were the best means to achieving healthy outcomes, puttering around the yard and performing DIY tasks around the house could make a meaningful difference in an individual’s health.
Talk to your doctor about the steps you can take to avoid having a stroke in the future. Your health is your greatest asset especially in retirement. Avoiding a stroke, can be an important step to helping you avoid institutional care, protecting your assets and avoid being a burden on your children.