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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 01:27 GMT
Cost of strokes added up
Brain
Most strokes involve the brain being starved of oxygen
Researchers are investigating the burden stroke care can place on families and health services.

Stroke is the third most common cause of death, but it receives far less attention than heart attacks - the biggest killer.

Researchers warn the situation could worsen over the next 20 to 30 years, as the population ages.

And, as statistics only record the 15 to 20% of strokes which are fatal, researchers believe the true number of people disabled by the condition is not reported.

Stroke is very neglected in terms of NHS provision and in terms of research funding."

Dr Peter Rothwell
Oxford Vascular Study
In the largest study of its kind to be carried out in the UK for 20 years, researchers will follow a population of 200,000 adults in Oxford.

They will look at how many people suffer coronary vascular disease - heart disease - and cerebral vascular disease - strokes and transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs or "mini" strokes).

'Unrecognised care'

Over the course of the three-year study, the researchers expect to see 1,500 stroke and TIA victims and around 2,000 people with heart attacks amongst the study group.

Researchers will also look at whether risk factors for strokes and heart disease differ.

They said it appeared high blood pressure seemed to be a particular risk factor for strokes, whereas raised cholsterol levels were a risk factor for heart disease.

The Oxford Vascular Study has received around 660,000 in funding from organisations including the Medical Research Council and the Stroke Association.

Dr Peter Rothwell, who is leading the study told BBC News Online: "With strokes, there is an enormous amount of unrecognised care.

"It causes disabilities; not just physical disabilities - it can cause loss of speech, cognitive problems, problems with memory or thinking or problems with spatial awareness.

"One of the things we're keen to do is compare the burden of cerebral and coronary vascular disease."

He added: "In relation to coronary care, stroke is very neglected in terms of NHS provision and in terms of research funding."

Up-to-date information

Dr Rothwell said while there was a whole national service framework (NSF) on heart disease, stroke only received one chapter in the NSF for care of the elderly.

He added: "Our study will provide reliable and up-to-date information on the current burden of stroke, and changes in the UK over the last 20 years. This would allow us to evaluate the success of the UK in preventing and treating stroke, and to plan future services."

Eoin Redahan, a director of The Stroke Association, said: "It is difficult enough for us to improve stroke services today.

"But the fact that the government is planning services on 20-year-old information is ridiculous.

"We hope that this new study will give health-care managers up-to-date information which will make them realise how important it is to improve the stroke services we have now."

See also:

26 Oct 02 | Health
18 May 01 | Health
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