Health Medical

Stroke deaths may see a rise as millennials age, says study

Phisiscal inactivity leading to spate of diseases

HQ Team

January 14, 2023: A Rutgers University meta-analysis shows that stroke death rates in the U.S. decreased from 1975 to 2019, but that trend may not continue forward once millennials get older.

According to the researchers, stroke fatalities will rise among millennials compared to prior generations.

The Rutgers analysis separated patients by birth year and studied the rise in ischemic stroke risk among people ages 18 to 84 in the U.S. between 1975 and 2019.

“Starting around 1960, the later you were born, the higher your risk of suffering a fatal ischemic stroke at any particular age,” Cande Ananth, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and chief of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said in a news release.

“This study didn’t identify a cause for this trend, but other research suggests the main culprits are increasing rates of obesity and diabetes,” Ananth added.

Researchers also discovered that stroke fatality rates dropped more for ischemic strokes (80%) compared to hemorrhagic strokes (65%). Disparity between male and female stroke fatality rates was found to reduce as patient age went up.

Men 55 years of age are more than twice as likely to have a stroke that results in death compared to women. However, the rates of fatal stroke are nearly the same at 85 years of age. The reason for the increase in stroke death rates may be due to a lack of focus on stroke and heart attack prevention, believe the researchers. Most experts say that intervention after the event is more common than on prevention.

Causes for rise in stroke deaths

Primary preventive healthcare is outdated, which is affecting access for younger generations. Lifestyle is also a contributing factor for the increase in stroke-related deaths.

Incidences of stroke have been on the rise among young people in recent years — but death from stroke is rare among younger age groups. Stroke mortality begins to increase as people get older.

Ananth said, “There are a multitude of risk factors (including high BMI and obesity, smoking, and alcohol use, diabetes and hypertension being the most important) that predispose a person to increased risk of stroke deaths,” Ananth said.

Prior research has shown that only 65% of millennials have a primary care doctor, compared to 82% of baby boomers and 74% of generation Xers.

Ananth noted that stress is a likely contributor to the increase in stroke-related deaths among millennials.

Still, more research is needed to determine whether new stressors from a changing world environment could be considered as potential risks.

“The extent to which air pollution and climate change may have impacted risks remain poorly understood,” Ananth said. Researchers predict the number of stroke fatalities will rise for the first time in 40 years among millennials. The increasing number of stroke fatalities among this cohort may be due to an increase in obesity and diabetes, a lack of access to medical care, and, possibly, the unique stressors of modern life.

The analysis was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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