Using data from the Global Burden of Disease Study, the researchers were able to estimate the disease burden of stroke associated with 17 risk factors across 188 countries.
They say theirs is the first study to run a detailed analysis on global stroke risk factors, particularly as they relate to stroke burden on global, regional, and national scales.
A stroke occurs when the brain’s blood supply is blocked or when a blood vessel bursts, resulting in a loss of oxygen to the brain that, in turn, injures or kills brain cells.
Having a stroke can result in death or permanent disability, including loss of vision or speech, paralysis, and confusion.
The researchers of this latest study – led by Dr. Valery L. Feigin, of Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand – say that until now, the effect of modifiable risk factors on the increasing global burden of stroke has been unclear.
However, gaining an understanding about this effect is “crucial for informing stroke prevention strategies.”
90 percent of global stroke burden linked to modifiable risk factors
To get a clearer picture, the researchers used global trends of stroke risk factors from 1990-2013 to estimate the proportion of disease burden in a population that would be averted if exposure to a risk factor were removed.
They found that the 10 leading stroke risk factors around the world were high blood pressure, low fruit intake, high body mass index (BMI), high sodium intake, smoking, low vegetable intake, environmental air pollution, household pollution, low whole grain intake, and high blood sugar.
In detail, the researchers discovered that around 30 percent of disability associated with stroke is linked to air pollution, which is especially high in developing countries compared with developed countries, at 33.7 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively.
They also found that over 90 percent of the global burden of stroke is associated with modifiable risk factors. According to the team, control of these risk factors could prevent nearly 75 percent of all strokes.
”Our findings are important for helping national governments and international agencies to develop and prioritize public health programs and policies. Governments have the power and responsibility to influence these risk factors through legislation and taxation of tobacco, alcohol, salt, sugar or saturated fat content, while health service providers have the responsibility to check and treat risk factors such as high blood pressure.”
Dr. Valery L. Feigin
Interestingly, the team also reported on the top five risk factors for stroke in certain countries: