Number of strokes on the rise – how to prevent them

In 2014, around 25 percent more strokes were recorded among 20-64 year olds than two decades earlier. This trend is likely to continue. But everyone can effectively reduce their personal risk.
Health experts predict that the number of people suffering from the consequences of a stroke will double by 2030. This would be a continuation of an unfortunate development: The curve of strokes has been pointing upwards for decades. Today, every third death in industrialised countries is due to a stroke.

Although personal risk is also determined by genes and age, lifestyle and – resulting from this – previous illnesses can play a favourable role. “Blood pressure in particular should be kept in mind, because hypertension, i.e. high blood pressure, is the most important risk factor for strokes,” says Dr. Rainer Ruf, cardiologist from the Ambulantes Centrum Berlin in Berlin-Friedrichshain. “The problem is that elevated blood pressure is not accompanied by any symptoms for a long time. This is why many of the patients affected – after all, about one in three adults in Germany – are unaware of their condition and the associated higher risk of stroke. Regular check-ups should therefore be the method of choice, so that therapeutic or preventive measures can be initiated at an early stage”.

Keeping an eye on the usual suspects

Roughly speaking, it is a healthy lifestyle that is important for stroke prevention. What is involved is widely known: a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and little salt; regular physical exercise, not least to avoid obesity; abstaining from alcohol also has the effect of lowering blood pressure and thus preventing strokes. The same applies to stress, which can put a strain on the cardiovascular system. It is also important to stop smoking, because nicotine causes the vessels to calcify (arteriosclerosis) and affects blood clotting.

“In addition to a healthy lifestyle and blood pressure control, it also makes sense to check cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as these are also considered risk factors for stroke,” explains Dr Ruf. The positive side effect of comprehensive risk prevention: the well-being and the general quality of life increase, because one feels more vital, more efficient and more balanced.