Young stroke incidence rate in Rockhampton sparks alarm

A local study has delved into why so many working age people, or those aged 18-65, are having strokes in Rockhampton.

While the national average for working age stroke is around 28 percent, Rockhampton’s numbers are the highest in Queensland at a concerning 38 percent, placing a significant burden on the community.

Project coordinator and Rockhampton Hospital Stroke Coordinator Leanne Whiley said one stroke can impact many lives.

“Stroke strikes the brain. It can result in physical disabilities, speech, comprehension and sensory difficulties, fatigue and mental health challenges like depression and anxiety,” Ms Whiley said.

“It can impact your ability to carry out regular day to day activities and to work. This places pressure on individuals and families at a time when they are already juggling many other life responsibilities.

“I set out to determine why people were having strokes so young, with the aim to inform future development of a targeted education program to decrease numbers overall.”

Patient data was collected from The Australian Stroke Data Tool (AusDAT) and a retrospective chart audit was undertaken to look for risk factors present prior to hospital admission and whilst an inpatient. This found the causes of stroke to be mostly lifestyle related.

Of the 571 cases analysed:

• 49 percent had known high blood pressure (hypertension), but only 40 percent of those were taking medication to manage it.

• 36 percent had known high cholesterol, but only 32 percent were on cholesterol medication.

• 48 percent were smokers.

• 39 percent regularly consumed alcohol.

• 40 percent were physically inactive.

The research conducted will be showcased at the 30th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stroke Society of Australasia this week (October 12-15).

Stroke Society of Australasia (SSA) President Professor Bernard Yan said the Rockhampton study has important implications for the rest of the country.

“Evidence indicates that while the overall incidence of stroke has been declining, stroke incidence in young people of working age has been increasing over time in Australia and around the world,” Professor Yan said.

“In 2020, 10,670 first time strokes were experienced by Australians of working age.

“But there is some good news, stroke is largely preventable by managing blood pressure and cholesterol and living a healthy and active lifestyle. We need the community to understand the risks and take steps to improve their overall health.”

Other key topics to be showcased at SSA 2021 include the impact of the telestroke roll out in New South Wales, the role of diet in secondary prevention of stroke and opportunities to improve stroke care for First Nations Australians. The conference unites hundreds of stroke clinicians to hear about the latest research and innovations in the field. It is being held largely online due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, while Western Australian locals will gather at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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