King’s College London analysis also finds number of survivors across Europe will increase by a third by 2035
The number of strokes in the UK is expected to increase by almost half over the next 20 years owing to the ageing population, according to a study.
Over the same period, the number of stroke survivors is predicted to rise by a third, raising questions about how the already stretched NHS and social care services will cope.
King’s College London analysed data from 35 European countries, finding that the number of strokes across the continent is likely to rise by a third (34%) by 2035. But the increase in the UK is expected to be more pronounced at 44%, owing to the rate at which the country’s population is ageing relative to many other European countries.
Alexis Wieroniey, deputy director of policy and influencing at the Stroke Association, said: “The predicted rise in the burden of stroke is largely due to our ageing population, as the risk of having a stroke increases as you get older. It is a worrying forecast, but it is not inevitable.
“Most strokes are preventable and everyone can take steps to lower their risk of stroke as they get older. Obesity can increase your risk of stroke by at least 64%. However, simple lifestyle changes like eating healthier meals, taking regular exercise and stopping smoking, along with checking your blood pressure regularly, can greatly reduce your risk.”
According to the Stroke Association, an estimated 1.2 million people are currently living with the effects of stroke. It says there are more than 100,000 strokes each year.
The King’s College London analysis is published on the same day as the British Medical Association warns that the UK is facing a health time bomb owing to a failure in addressing the burden placed on the NHS by obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
The BMA points to figures showing that nearly one in six adults still smoke, 7.8 million adults binge drink and obesity rates remain stubbornly high. It says there has been a failure to publish a new tobacco control plan and a lack of recognition of the need for a new alcohol strategy. It also describes the childhood obesity strategy as “watered-down”.
In its manifesto, A Vote for Health, the BMA says whichever party wins the general election should reverse the £400m of public health cuts taking place between 2015-16 and 2020-21.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA council, said: “In England, successive governments have failed to deliver a long-term plan to improve public health, and too often evidence-based public health measures have been kicked into the long grass. We need tighter regulation of the food and soft drinks industry, a minimum unit price on alcohol and support for people to quit smoking.”
The Stroke Association says a plan to tackle strokes is also essential given the projected rise in the number of cases. The current stroke strategy for England is scheduled to end this year, leaving it as the only UK nation without such a plan.
A Conservative party spokeswoman said: “We are committed to improving the health of the nation. Smoking rates are now the lowest in our history, with cancer survival the highest, and we’ve put in place a childhood obesity plan Public Health England calls the most ambitious in the world.
“But the truth is that this all depends on a strong economy – we spent £3.4bn on public health programmes last year – which Jeremy Corbyn would risk with his nonsensical economic ideas.”