Epidemiology of stroke in the elderly in the Nordic countries. Incidence, survival, prevalence and risk factors
Objective: To review what is known at present with respect to incidence, survival, risk factors and prevalence among the elderly stroke patients in the Nordic countries.
Method: This article is based mainly on literature identified through search engines (Mc Master Plus, Cochrane Library, Medline and PubMed), restricted to first-ever stroke in Nordic population-based studies and having applied to the standard WHO definition, a prospective study design and no upper age limit.
Results: Data from the Nordic countries show an incidence rate of 1250 to 1796/100 000 in the age group 75-84, and 1628 to 2234 in those above 85 years. The incidence rates are higher among men, but women are expected to contribute more to incident cases due to their higher life expectancy. If the age-specific incidence of stroke remains stable, the proportion of stroke patients aged 80 years and older may reach 50% in a few decades. The elderly stroke patients have a higher 30-days case fatality, and a higher risk of dependency. Better treatment of stroke patients has improved the survival over the last two decades. The prevalence is expected to increase due to the decrease in lethality, a slower fall in incidence and a higher proportion of elderly. Cardiovascular risk factors increase with age. Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke mortality in the elderly. Cardioembolic stroke due to atrial fibrillation is the most common stroke subtype in the elderly. Lifestyle risk factors are less prevalent in the older stroke patients.
Conclusion: The growing proportion of elderly stroke patients is a major challenge for future stroke care. The elderly stroke patients have a different risk factor profile compared to younger stroke patients. Treatment should focus on regaining independency. The age-specific epidemiology of stroke needs to be studied further in large studies in order to plan for future health care.
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