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Global stroke risk estimates vary by geographic region

January / February 2019 | Volume 18, Number 1

One in four people over age 25 is at risk for stroke during their lifetime, according to a new scientific study. Researchers found a nearly five-fold difference in lifetime stroke risk worldwide - with the highest risk in East Asia and Central and Eastern Europe - and lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, where people are at a greater risk of dying earlier from another cause. The lifetime stroke risk for 25-year-olds in 2016 ranged from 8 percent to 39 percent, depending on where they live.

“Our findings are startling,” said Dr. Gregory Roth of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, and senior author on the study. “We found extremely high lifetime risk for stroke, and based on other research we evaluated, it is clear that younger adults need to think about long-term health risks. They can make a real difference by eating healthier diets, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.”

The study, “Global, Regional, and Country-Specific Lifetime Risks of Stroke, 1990-2016,” was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Using estimates from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2016 study, the three regions with the highest estimated lifetime risk of stroke were East Asia (38.8 percent), Central Europe (31.7 percent), and Eastern Europe (31.6 percent). The region with the lowest risk was eastern sub-Saharan Africa (11.8 percent).

Country-level view: Lifetime risk of stroke occurrence
(in %) in both sexes combined, 2016

World map with color showing percentage of lifetime stroke occurrence by country. Full data and description at #mapdescription. 

From the Lifetime Stroke Risk, 2016 infographic, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Full description of the figure and data below.

Note: The lower risk of lifetime stroke in sub-Saharan Africa does not necessarily represent a lower incidence of stroke or more effective prevention and treatment strategies. Instead, populations in these geographies are at higher risk of dying of another disease first.

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Description of figure "Country-level view: Lifetime risk of stroke occurrence (in %) in both sexes combined, 2016": World map with color showing percentage of lifetime stroke occurrence by country.

Percentage by region:

  • East Asia: 38.8%
  • Central Europe: 31.7%
  • Eastern Europe: 31.6
  • Central Asia: 24.4
  • High-income North America: 23.8
  • East Asia: 29.7
  • South Asia: 10.4
  • Southeast Asia: 9.8
  • Eastern sub-Saharan Africa: 17.6
  • Central Europe: 8.7

Top 5 countries:

  • China: 39.3%
  • Latvia: 37.0%
  • Romania: 36.2%
  • Montenegro: 36.0%
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: 35.7%

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