22 Jun 2018

'Wake-up call': NZ stroke numbers predicted to rise 40 percent

1:07 pm on 22 June 2018

New Zealand hospitals will have to deal with a 40 percent increase in the number of strokes in 10 years, a study says.

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Photo: 123RF

The University of Otago study predicted the number of strokes would increase from about 9000 to 12,000 strokes per year in the next decade, an increase of 40 percent, despite medical advances and public health initiatives.

Stroke costs New Zealand an estimated $700 million each year.

Report author Anna Ranta said the increase would be in total number of strokes, not the incidence of strokes, and is an issue of an aging population.

"The incidence of strokes has steadily decreased over the last three decades because of interventions we're providing and improved prevention measures," she said.

"But the total number of strokes will increase because the population will increase, with a disproportionate increase in people over 65."

Dr Ranta said the New Zealand healthcare system would struggle to cater for the projected increase.

"The origin for the paper was to help DHBs plan, as well as the ministry, for increasing resources in the hospital and community services," Dr Ranta said.

She is also the Ministry of Health national stroke clinical leader and a consultant neurologist with the Capital and Coast District Health Board.

"It's a wake up call ... we can all contribute to this and it's a problem we all share," Dr Ranta said.

More planning and funding for stroke prevention, treatment and education was needed to handle the increasing rates of stroke, she said.

"The services currently in place are very much geared towards the current numbers."

All New Zealanders should be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of stroke, she said.

"The public can do a great deal as well, as regards prevention especially.

"So we need to work on further reducing tobacco use, getting blood pressure checked and reducing sugar intake."

Better data was needed to validate the figures, Dr Ranta said.