Number of strokes set to soar 40 percent in next decade

A new study reveals the number of strokes could rise by 40 percent in the next decade due to an aging, growing population. 

Researchers warn it's a wake-up call for the Government to ensure hospitals and rehabilitation services are prepared for the influx. 

In 2015, Reuben Williams collapsed while walking to his car. At just 39, he'd had a stroke.

Amazingly he was found by a passing doctor and rushed to hospital but there, his outlook was bleak.

"They didn't think that I was going to survive the night and it was touch and go if I would survive basically," Mr Williams told Newshub.

He spent three months in hospital, followed by six months in rehab. He still finds it hard to see out of one eye, but he considers himself very lucky.

"[There were] three other boys in the ward with me who had the same condition and they didn't make it, and so that really hit home."

A University of Otago study commissioned by the Ministry of Health shows that by 2028, the number of strokes will increase by 40 percent from 7231 each year to 10,112.

The cost to the health system is currently $700 million a year and that would climb to almost $1 billion. 

The rise is due to an ageing, growing population.

Study author Anna Ranta told Newshub there will need to be more hospital and rehabilitation resources. 

"I think we will be able to meet the challenge if we start thinking about it now," she said.

Understanding the symptoms is key, so people can get quick life-saving treatment is also key.

The Stroke Foundation campaigns for awareness with the acronym FAST to help people learn the symptoms of a stroke.

Chief executive Mark Vivian said this is a wake-up call for the Ministry of Health. 

"If we do nothing that's going to be end result in 10 years what would happen if we stepped in now and put in place some prevention. " 

Seventy five percent of strokes are preventable; checking your blood pressure, not smoking, limiting alcohol and eating fruit and vegetables will make a huge difference.

It's a shift Mr Williams has made. 

"Believe me, I've learnt the hard way that sometimes your health is all you've got," he said.

Mr Williams is hopeful other Kiwis, especially Māori and Pacific Islanders who are at greater risk, don't leave it too late. 


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