Modifiable Stroke Risk Factors Discovered

Approximately 48% of all strokes could be avoided if hypertension was eliminated.

It was recently discovered that 10 modifiable risk factors account for 90% of strokes occurring worldwide.

A study published in The Lancet included researchers from 32 countries, and built upon earlier research. The current INTERSTROKE study included 26,000 participants of both genders from diverse populations, and of varied ages.

“This study has the size and scope to explore stroke risk factors in all major regions of the world and within key populations,” said principal investigator Martin O'Donnell, MB, PhD. “We have confirmed the 10 modifiable risk factors associated with 90% of stroke cases in all regions, young and older and in men and women. The study also confirms that hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor in all regions, and the key target in reducing the burden of stroke globally."

The results showed that 48% of strokes would not occur if hypertension was not a factor. Approximately 36% of strokes would be avoidable with increased physical activity, according to the study.

Another 19% of strokes would not occur if people had a better diet, and 12% would be avoided if smoking was not a factor. Other factors such as cardiac causes (9%), diabetes (4%), alcohol intake (6%), stress (6%) would prevent less than 10% of all strokes.

The elimination of lipids would prevent 27% of all strokes. All risk factors together composed 91% of strokes.

The researchers also noted that the prevalence of certain risk factors varied by region. For example, hypertension ranged from 40% in Western Europe, North America, and Australia, to 60% in Southeast Asia.

"Our findings will inform the development of global population-level interventions to reduce stroke, and how such programs may be tailored to individual regions," said researcher Salim Yusuf, MD, DPhil. "This includes better health education, more affordable healthy food, avoidance of tobacco and more affordable medication for hypertension and dyslipidaemia."