Australian researchers have found that current primary stroke prevention measures are insufficient and need a more holistic approach.
The study, published in Lancet Public Health, proposes a combined approach where behavioural, pharmacological and structural interventions are used in conjunction to tackle stroke prevention more effectively.
Scientists propose a toolkit that involves lifestyle improvements, medication management and knowledge, as well as structural measures such as collaborating with other countries, policy changes and providing a healthier environment.
Dr Lisa Murphy, the Stroke Foundation executive director and co-author of the research paper, says that primary stroke prevention strategies are predominately targeted at behavioural changes like quitting smoking, eating healthily and exercising. Although they are effective at an individual level, she suggests a broader approach.
“For example, awareness campaigns to improve healthy eating or physical activity are unlikely to be successful if there is poor access to healthy foods or few spaces for physical activity,” the expert adds. “These are structural factors that need to be addressed for the behavioural and pharmacological elements to be effective.
“We hope this collaborative approach will minimise the current fragmentation and inefficiency of primary stroke prevention to benefit not only stroke patients, but the healthcare system overall.”
Stroke Foundation CEO Sharon McGowan, welcomes the research and the impact it could have on reducing the economic and human burden of stroke, adding that the findings are timely, as the new Australian Government will be considering new initiatives for heart disease and stroke.
“We know that 80 per cent of strokes are preventable so anything we can to do improve on current prevention strategies and reduce incidence of stroke in our community and the burden of stroke on the Australian economy is welcomed,” she explains.
Annually, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke, according to the World Health Organisation. Of these, five million die and another five million are left permanently disabled, placing a burden on family and community.
Lifestyle factors that increase the risk of stroke include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, heavy drinking, high salt and high fat diet and lack of exercise.
However, some stroke risk factors, such as gender, age and family history, can’t be controlled.
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