Stroke Cases Set To Rise, Boosted By Diabetes

| June 9, 2017

The incidence of strokes in the UK will rise by 44 per cent within 20 years, according to a new report from King’s College London. The Burden of Stroke in Europe predicts a rise from 43,000 strokes in 2015 to 62,000 in 2035, due to an ageing population and ever-increasing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.1

This estimate for the UK compares poorly with a predicted average European increase of 34 per cent. And although the death rate from strokes has been reducing for some years, a consequence is the rising number of people left to cope with the after-effects of a stroke, often without any specialist rehabilitation or after-care.

Acknowledging that prevention is better than cure, the report’s authors identify diabetes, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart rhythm abnormalities as the main modifiable risk factors for stroke. But their recommendations are, in the main, for more treatment – in other words, putting more people on medication to control these conditions. Not only will that add enormously to overstretched healthcare budgets, it isn’t even the most effective strategy.

The huge majority of strokes could be prevented by lifestyle and dietary changes, avoiding the risks associated with prescription drugs. In fact, some blood pressure medications, statins and antidiabetic drugs actually increase the risk of a stroke. But a study in Sweden has shown that, even in elderly men with existing cardiovascular disease, lifestyle factors can reduce stroke risk by 72 per cent.2

The factors this study looked at were diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and body mass index (BMI). The same researchers found that these lifestyle factors could also reduce stroke risk in healthy women by 62 per cent.3

None of these findings should come as a surprise. We have known for years that eating healthily, being physically active, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation (if at all) and not being overweight or obese dramatically reduce the chances of a stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes and a whole laundry list of other “diseases of civilisation”. So, what has gone wrong?

Just about everything, really. We are designed for an open-air, hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but most of us spend our days indoors, sitting down, under stress and staring at a screen. Big Food has taken over our diets, getting us hooked on sugar and artificial flavours, with little regard to our nutritional needs. And, most of all, our health has been hijacked by Big Pharma, with the promise of a pill to fix every ill, making us rely more on medications than on our common sense.

Although the Kings College report calls on European governments and the European Commission to do more, the increasing burden of stroke can only really be tackled at the level of the individual. In the end, it is down to each of us to regain control of our health and decide to look after our bodies and brains the way we know we should.

Whatever your age, putting yourself in charge of your diabetes treatment is of prime importance. And, if you have an elderly relative with the condition, it would do no harm to keep an eye on their meds, too. A recent study found that frail and elderly people with type 2 diabetes are often overtreated, as I report in my next blog post.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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1. Kings College London. The Burden of Stroke in Europe. The Stroke Alliance for Europe, May 2017.

2. Larsson SC, Åkesson A, Wolk A. Primary prevention of stroke by a healthy lifestyle in a high-risk group. Neurology. 2015; 84(22):2224-2228.

3. Larsson SC, Åkesson A, Wolk A. Healthy diet and lifestyle and risk of stroke in a prospective cohort of women. Neurology. 2014; 83(19):1699-1704.

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