Alarming new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine today, has revealed stroke is on the increase with one in four people globally to experience stroke in their lifetime.
Data released in 2006 had this estimate at one in six people. Research leading author Professor Valery Feigin said the sharp surge in stroke's impact was due, in part, to an increasingly unhealthy lifestyle.
"The increase in stroke incidence globally comes down to more than an ageing and growing population. We know people are now experiencing strokes at younger ages," Professor Feigin said.
"A total of 58 percent of all strokes now happen to people 70 years and under – and our modern lifestyle is to blame.
"We are spending our time scrolling throughout smart phones instead of walking outside. We are eating convenience foods instead of cooking for ourselves. We are stressed, we are not sleeping well. We are not looking after ourselves and we are suffering the consequences."
Stroke attacks the brain, the human control centre, changing the lives of those impacted and their loved ones in an instant.
This year alone an estimated 56,000 strokes will be experienced by Australians – that is one stroke every nine minutes. Frighteningly, the country is on track for the number of strokes to more than double to 132,000 annually by 2050 – one stroke every four minutes.
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said this runaway train can and must be stopped immediately.
"We are at risk of leaving the next generation with a shorter life expectancy than our own unless decisive action is taken to reduce the burden of stroke," Ms McGowan said.
"Stroke kills more men than prostate cancer, more women than breast cancer and leaves thousands with ongoing disabilities each year, yet 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.
"Federal and State governments must act now, coming together to lead the way with targeted prevention programs to help people identify their stroke risk and do something about it.
"We must do more to support healthier communities.
"An investment in prevention is just that, an investment, the return is lives saved and a reduction in stroke's burden on our community and health system."
Ms McGowan also encouraged people to visit their General Practitioner (GP), ask for a health check and take steps to control their stroke risk. GPs can help people identify and manage key risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat). They can also offer advice on a healthy diet, exercise routine and on how to quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake.