Strokes are hitting people earlier as unhealthy lifestyles and obesity raise the risk of an attack, an official report reveals.
They used to be considered a hazard of old age, but latest statistics show the middle-aged – those aged 40 to 69 – make up 38 per cent of stroke victims in England, up from 33 per cent a decade ago.
From 2007 to 2016, the average age of a stroke patient fell from 71 to 68 for men and from 75 to 73 for women, the report reveals.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or there is a major bleed in the head, reducing blood flow to the brain
Public Health England today launches a major TV advertising campaign targeting the middle-aged and focusing on information about the warning signs.
Any delay in the critical first few hours after a stroke can be devastating, vastly increasing the chance of the victim being left permanently disabled or even dying.
Experts believe older people are more likely to be rushed to hospital because people recognise their symptoms, but this does not happen with the middle-aged because people assume they are too young to have a stroke.
One in six people in England will have a stroke in their lifetime. It is the third most common cause of premature death and a leading cause of disability. Roughly 57,000 have a stroke each year, with 32,000 dying.
Of those who survive, 65 per cent leave hospital with a disability, and 25 per cent of survivors have a second stroke within five years.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or there is a major bleed in the head, reducing blood flow to the brain. High blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight are the main causes – all problems which are on the rise among the middle-aged.
Juliet Bouverie, chief executive at the Stroke Association, said: ‘These figures show that strokes can no longer be seen exclusively as a disease of older people. We start to see a difference in the rates of strokes between men and women from as young as 40, with men having the highest rates.
‘We think that this rise is due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise and poor diets.’
One in six people will have a stroke, which is the most common cause of premature death and disability
She added: ‘The simple truth is that we must do more to raise people’s awareness of risk factors and signs of strokes to help prevent them from having a stroke and to limit the damage that stroke can bring.’
Britain’s obesity problem is the worst in Western Europe, with 27 per cent of British adult obese, compared to 10 per cent in Italy, 17 per cent in France and Spain and 24 per cent in Germany.
Officials are also increasingly concerned about the country’s inactivity epidemic, with nearly half of adults failing to go for a brisk walk even once a month. The media campaign features the FAST acronym, asking people to look out for a drooping Face, Arms that cannot move and slurred Speech. It’s then Time to call 999.
Public health minister Steve Brine said: ‘The message of this campaign remains as relevant as ever. The faster you act, the greater the chance of a good recovery.
‘That’s why I’m urging everybody, and we must remember stroke can hit at any age, to familiarise themselves with the signs of a stroke and be ready to act fast.’