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With greater focus on prevention, stroke mortality rate drops considerably

December 10, 2013

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes affect approximately 795,000 Americans every year, and although they are among the leading causes of death in the U.S., researchers recently found that the mortality rate from strokes has dropped considerably. Scientists from the Medical University of South Carolina found that, since the 1970s, the rate of deaths from strokes has dipped by about 5 percent every year, according to results published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Experts say there are a variety of reasons for the improved survivability rate. Despite the fact that the population has become both older and heavier since the '70s, there has also been an increased push to curb high blood pressure over the last 30-plus years, which is one of the biggest risk factors for stroke. There have also been significant improvements to prevention and treatment methods.

"The repositioning of stroke from third to fourth leading cause of death is the result of true mortality decline and not an increase in mortality from chronic lung disease, which is now the third leading cause of death in the United States," said Dr. Daniel Lackland, one of the study's authors. 

There are a number of effective ways for older adults to lower their risk of experiencing a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, managing one's diet is often the best route. More specifically, limiting the intake of saturated and trans fats can have a significant impact. Reducing the amount of salt in one's diet is important as well because it can keep blood pressure at a healthy level. Other common aspects of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, including regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking, are all cornerstones of stroke prevention.