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Northern Ireland stroke cases will double unless there is more funding for research: warning


By Adrian Rutherford

The number of stroke victims in Northern Ireland could more than double over the next 20 years without proper investment in prevention, a report warns today.

The Stroke Association claims over 110,000 people across the UK could be saved from having a stroke by 2035 if research was better funded.

Its report said that over the next two decades, more people every year will be living with stroke.

This means the annual number of stroke survivors in Northern Ireland could more than double to over 57,000 by 2035.

The report warns that around a third (19,000) of these could be living with long-term disabilities.

Barry Macaulay, director for the Stroke Association in Northern Ireland, said: "It's clear that we need to act now to prevent Northern Ireland from sleepwalking towards a stroke crisis."

However, the findings claim a £10m investment into prevention research could change the story and save 114,000 people in the UK from having a stroke.

Mr Macaulay added: "The fact is that most strokes are preventable, but there's still a lot we don't know. This report highlights some of the key areas that desperately need investment.

"We are currently funding a number of smaller studies focusing on stroke prevention, including blood pressure management, treatments for atrial fibrillation (AF), and the prevention of haemorrhagic stroke.

"The annual number of stroke survivors is expected to increase dramatically by 2035 and the cost to the NHS in Northern Ireland is set to rise to over £203m in 2035 from around £64m in 2015."

The Stroke Association estimates there are almost 37,000 stroke survivors in Northern Ireland.

Almost 35,000 people are known to have AF, which increases a person's risk of stroke five times.

However, many patients are on a treatment that is not effectively lowering their stroke risk, or may not even have had the condition diagnosed.

Around 260,000 people have been diagnosed with high blood pressure in Northern Ireland, which is the biggest controllable risk factor for stroke.

However, it is thought that a further 180,000 may be unaware that they have the condition.

Mr Macaulay continued: "Stroke causes a greater range of disabilities than any other condition, but research into stroke remains underfunded."

The study was undertaken at Queen Mary University of London and the London School of Economics.

Professor Anita Patel, who led the research, said: "Our findings suggest that more people are likely to survive stroke over the next 20 years, and by 2035 many hundreds of thousands of stroke survivors will be living with long-term disabilities.

"Increasing our investment into stroke research will help us turn the tide for people with a higher risk of stroke, allowing us to take steps to prevent the condition more widely."

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