A new study shows that although stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, the vast majority of strokes are preventable. Researchers discovered that 10 controllable risk factors account for 90 percent of all strokes worldwide. Of these modifiable risk factors, high blood pressure (hypertension) is the most important.
The study, which involved nearly 27,000 people from all over the world, showed that preventing strokes is a major public health priority and strategies for reducing people's risk should be based on key preventable causes of stroke.
For the study, researchers looked at the proportion of strokes caused by specific risk factors to determine the extent to which eliminating each risk would reduce the impact of stroke. Eliminating high blood pressure was estimated to reduce risk by nearly 48 percent, the findings showed.
The investigators also calculated potential reductions for eliminating other risk factors:
Physical inactivity: 36 percent; Poor diet: 23 percent; Obesity: 19 percent; Smoking: 12 percent; Heart causes: 9 percent; Diabetes: 4 percent; Alcohol use: 6 percent; Stress: 6 percent and Lipids (blood fats): 27 percent.
The combined reduction for all 10 risk factors was 90.7 percent across all regions, age groups and among both men and women. The study authors noted, however, that the importance of various risk factors varies in different regions. For example, high blood pressure causes about 39 percent of strokes in North America, Australia and Western Europe, but nearly 60 percent in Southeast Asia.