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Improved Prevention, Treatment Led to Significant Declines in US Stroke Death

Update Date: Dec 06, 2013 03:51 PM EST
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Stroke mortality in the U.S. has dropped significantly in recent decades because of improved treatment and prevention, according to the American Heart Association.

Experts said that stroke has dropped from through the third to the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

"The decline in stroke deaths is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries," Daniel T. Lackland, Dr. P.H., chair of the statement writing committee and professor of epidemiology at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, S.C., said in a news release "The decline is real, not a statistical fluke or the result of more people dying of lung disease, the third leading cause of death."

Public health efforts started in the 1970s targeting high blood pressure and hypertension have significantly helped lower stroke death, according to Lackland. He added that smoking cessation programs, better control of diabetes and abnormal cholesterol levels, as well as faster treatment have also helped prevent strokes. Recent improvement in care and treatment of acute stroke has also helped lower death rates.

"We can't attribute these positive changes to any one or two specific actions or factors as many different prevention and treatment strategies had a positive impact," Lackland said. "Policymakers now have evidence that the money spent on stroke research and programs aimed at stroke prevention and treatment have been spent wisely and lives have been saved.

"For the public, the effort you put into lowering your blood pressure, stopping smoking, controlling your cholesterol and diabetes, exercising and eating less salt has paid off with a lower risk of stroke," he added.

"Although all groups showed improvement, there are still great racial and geographic disparities with stroke risks as well many people having strokes at young ages," Lackland said. "We need to keep doing what works and to better target these programs to groups at higher risk."

The paper was published in the journal Stroke

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