-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- Over the next two decades,
the cost of treating strokes in the United States is expected to
more than double, topping more than $180 billion a year, according
to new research.
The main factor driving the increase: an aging population. The
report, from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American
Stroke Association, was published May 22 in the journal
"Strokes will absolutely strain the health care system," Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, chairman of the department of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina, said in an AHA news release.
One expert who reviewed the report agreed.
"The forecasts in this article are indeed dire -- the predicted direct and indirect costs of stroke could place a heavy burden on our society, and they may be underestimates," said Dr. Stanley Truhim, director of the Mount Sinai Stroke Center in New York City.
According to the AHA, the highest uptick in stroke prevalence
will be among Americans between 45 and 64 years of age, who will
experience about a 5 percent increase in strokes over the next 20
years. Finances will be strained to meet the care needs of these
younger stroke victims, who are too young to receive Medicare, less
able to afford medications and often suffer from obesity or
People who do not have health insurance also have a 24 percent
to 56 percent greater risk of death from stroke than those with
coverage, according to the AHA statement.
The AHA also predicted the following will occur by 2030:
The costs associated with caring for people are often high
because an attack can lead to long-term disability, Ovbiagele said.
"Ninety percent of stroke patients have residual disability and
only 10 percent recover completely after a stroke," he said.
"Policy makers at all levels of governance should be aware of this
looming crisis so we can consider practical ways to avert it."
According to the AHA, stroke remains the fourth leading cause of
death in the United States and one of the most significant causes
of preventable disability.
Recognizing a stroke when it happens and getting the patient to
medical help quickly are imperative. "During every minute of
delayed treatment, brain cells are dying," Ovbiagele said.
"[Emergency workers] should take patients directly to a designated
stroke center equipped to quickly diagnose and administer drugs to
restore blood flow to the brain."
Dr. Richard Libman, vice chairman of neurology at the Cushing
Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, N.Y., called the AHA report
"realistic and sobering."
"It emphasizes the importance of stroke prevention -- that is, paying attention to the frequent risk factors plaguing our country, including high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, diabetes and lack of exercise," he said. "It also reminds us that even if we cannot prevent all strokes, continued investment in research to find new treatments and rehabilitation strategies can prevent suffering on the human level and also save billions of dollars in health care costs."
According to the AHA, the Affordable Care Act is expected to
expand health care coverage to an additional 32 million Americans.
The legislation also is shifting the focus to prevention and
wellness. The researchers believe health-care reform should help
reduce the number of strokes and deaths as well as stroke-related
Truhim agreed. "It is quite possible that health-care
expenditures mandated by [Affordable Care Act] provisions will more
than pay for themselves in indirect cost savings when people who
otherwise may have had strokes or other debilitating illnesses
remain productive members of society," he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
stroke facts and statistics.
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