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Number of stroke survivors living with long-term disability in Canada to climb 80% over next two decades: study

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For release: July 23, 2015, 4 pm EDT

More research required to find innovative solutions to restore lives affected by stroke, health groups say

OTTAWA _ In the next two decades, the number of Canadians living with long-term disability from stroke will increase by up to 80 per cent due to the aging population and population growth, according to a study published today in the medical journal Stroke.

The report provides an updated estimate of the scope of long-term stroke disability and includes, for the first time, children under the age of 12 and people living in institutions. Previous estimates were out-of-date and incomplete, making it difficult for agencies to plan for services and treatment. Accurate data are also required to monitor improvements in treatment and prevention.

According to the study — prepared for the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Ontario Stroke Network — at least 405,000 Canadians were living with long-term stroke disability in Canada in 2013, a number that’s 30-per-cent higher than the commonly used estimate.

But the big story is the projected growth in stroke disability rates in all parts of the country. “The number of people living with long-term stroke disability will rise to between 654,000 and 726,000 by 2038,” says lead author Dr. Hans Krueger, a Vancouver-based health economist and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia. The largest projected increase is in the Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) where there will be as many as 132,000 people living with stroke disability by 2038, representing an increase of as much as 128 per cent from 2013 levels.

“These findings highlight the critical need for research to find and test innovative solutions to improve recovery for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with stroke disability,” says Dr. Dale Corbett, Scientific Director and CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery.

“The good news is that we are creating more survivors, thanks to tremendous progress in stroke care,” says David Sculthorpe, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation. “But we need to do even more to keep up with the growing threat of stroke including raising awareness of the signs of stroke and improving prevention and care.”

“The increasing prevalence of stroke in Ontario means that we need smart investments in rehabilitation and recovery services across the province to ensure people regain their lives,” said Ontario Stroke Network Executive Director Chris O’Callaghan. “With our partners, we are working hard to improve access to post-stroke rehabilitation services in hospitals, outpatient clinics and the community.”

Eighty-three per cent of people survive a stroke and the effects range from mild to severe disability. Recovery can take months or even years and many people never fully recover. About 36 per cent of stroke survivors are left with significant disabilities after five years and more than 40 per cent require help with the activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, etc)

Still, the study under-estimates the complete scope of stroke recovery in Canada because it only includes people who have been diagnosed with physical or cognitive impairments lasting at least six months. It does not include individuals with a mild stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack), nor does it capture people living with dementia commonly caused by undiagnosed stroke.

Stroke disability by the numbers:

  • The prevalence of stroke survivors living with disability will as much as double in some regions of Canada by 2038.
  • The largest increase is projected for the Prairie provinces (AB, SK, MB), where it is estimated there will be between 116,000 and 132,000 stroke survivors living with disability in 2038. This represents an expected increase from 2013 that ranges between 100% and 128%.
  • Stroke disability rates are expected to increase between 65% and 71% in the Atlantic provinces (PEI, NS, NB, NL), between 49% and 54% in Quebec, between 68% and 74% in Ontario, and between 87% and 111% in British Columbia.
  • Of Canadians living with stroke disability in 2013, 354,500 lived in the community, 49,900 lived in homes-for-the-aged and 400 were young children.

Study co-authors include Dr. Hans Krueger, Dr. Dale Corbett of the University of Ottawa, Dr. Mark Bayley of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Dr. Ruth Hall of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Christina O’Callaghan of the Ontario Stroke Network and Jacqueline Koot of H. Krueger and Associates Inc.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery is a joint initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canada’s leading stroke recovery research centres. Headquartered at the University of Ottawa, the Partnership is restoring lives through research. Learn more at www.canadianstroke.ca

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen. heartandstroke.ca

The Ontario Stroke Network provides provincial leadership and planning for the continuum of stroke care in Ontario—from health promotion and stroke prevention to acute care, recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. Visit the OSN’s website at www.ontariostrokenetwork.ca.

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