New study suggests more than ninety-percent of strokes may be preventable


A major new study published in The Lancet suggests that 91% of strokes could be avoidable – as long as people follow a set of guidelines which act to minimise their risk.

The research team, from McMaster University in Canada, analysed data from just short of 27,000 participants from across the globe using INTERSTROKE – a standardised, case-control study set up to examine the relationship between various risk factors and stroke. All of the participants had no previous history of stroke. The study identified hypertension, or high blood pressure, as the number one treatable cause – keeping blood pressure within a healthy range is said to halve the risk of stroke. Other factors found to increase risk include poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking and excess alcohol.

Burger and chips

Stroke is “highly preventable”

Professor Peter Langhorne, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Science and co-author of the study, says: “The exciting findings of this study are the confirmation that stroke is a highly preventable disease.”

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, says: “This large study which analyses health data from many countries emphasises the paramount importance of strengthening public health measures to reduce risk factors, like high blood pressure, which was shown to be the single most important risk factor of having a stroke.

“It also highlights the importance of funding more research looking into stroke, its causes and possible treatments, to reduce the number of people dying prematurely.”

What is a stroke?

According to the Stroke Association, a stroke is essentially a brain attack. Stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off or restricted or there is a bleed on the brain. Since the blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients, brain cells can be damaged, sometimes permanently, as a result.

What is the risk?

According to the latest statistics published by UK charity The Stroke Association, by the age of 75, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 6 men will have suffered a stroke. However, 25% of strokes occur in the under-65s and can also occur in younger people and even children.

In the UK, 152,000 strokes are suffered every year – one every 3 minutes, 27 seconds. Stroke is currently the fourth largest cause of death in the UK, claiming up to 50,000 lives each year. Damage caused by a stroke can vary, depending on which part of the brain is affected and how quickly medical help is sought. Stroke can have lasting effects on movement, body function and can also impact on thoughts, feelings and a person’s ability to communicate. Stroke survivors may be left with sometimes permanent disabilities – more than 50% of stroke survivors are said to be dependent on others for help with everyday tasks.

High blood pressure

The ten modifiable risk factors identified in the study are:

  • Hypertension - taking regular medication to maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Physical activity – engaging in regular physical activity such as walking, cycling, running and sports
  • Diet – taking care to follow a healthy diet low in fats and sugars and rich in fruit and vegetables
  • Lipids or blood fats – taking steps to lower raised cholesterol
  • Obesity – maintaining or taking steps towards achieving a healthy body weight
  • Smoking – stopping smoking
  • Psychosocial factors – actively eliminating or managing stress
  • Cardiac problems – managing any identified cardiovascular problems with medication
  • Diabetes – minimising the risk of developing type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise
  • Alcohol – keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum.

For more information on what you can do to reduce your risk of stroke, visit The Stroke Association.

For more on the symptoms of stroke, you can read our previous article on the Act Fast Campaign.

For advice and tips on how to increase your physical activity, introduce a healthy diet, reduce your stress levels and more, visit our Live Healthy section.

This content is subject to our Disclaimer.

About the author

Georgie Fenn, writes most of our news articles and social media posts.