Healthcare professional helps senior woman walk with a walker

Unless stroke prevention and treatment improves, total U.S. stroke fatalities will rise as the millennial generation ages, a new study has found.

Rutgers University researchers examined data that captured virtually all U.S. stroke deaths from 1975 to 2019 among people aged 85 years and younger. During that time period, deaths fell sharply per 100,0000 people, plummeting from 88 to 31 for women and 112 to 39 for men, the researchers reported

The study also found a greater decline in ischaemic strokes (blocked blood vessels) than haemorrhagic strokes (leaking or burst vessels).

Hidden problem 

But the positive trend has started to turn, investigators also discovered. Beginning in the last five years of the study, stroke mortality has more sharply increased with advancing age. This sets the stage for a growing number of adverse stroke events as a younger generation grows older, according to lead author Cande Ananth, PhD, MPH, of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

The study is the first to analyze stroke deaths by year of birth, the researchers noted. Starting around 1960, the risk of suffering a fatal ischemic stroke at any particular age began to rise with later birth dates, Ananth and colleagues reported. The reason for this may not be a mystery, they added.

“This study didn’t identify a cause for this trend, but other research suggests the main culprits are increasing rates of obesity and diabetes,” Ananth said.

New strategies needed

“After nearly four decades of declining stroke-related mortality, the risk appears to be increasing in the United States,” she concluded. “Our research underscores the need for novel strategies to combat this alarming trend.”

The millennial generation was born between 1981 and 1996 (between 27 to 42 years old in 2023), according to the Pew Research Center.

The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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