The Soaring Cost of Stroke

Stroke costs are projected to double as the number of people having strokes increases

(RxWiki News) The number of stroke cases are not only increasing, the related costs are skyrocketing. While an aging population is at the core of the problem, stroke education may help avert a crisis.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and the National Stroke Association (NSA) is promoting stroke education as a means to prevent strokes and improve outcomes.

According to a new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) and NSA, nearly 1 in 25 Americans will have had a stroke by 2030, and the costs to treat them may increase from $71.55 billion in 2010 to $183.13 billion.

"Exercise regularly and eat healthy to help prevent stroke."

Bruce Ovbiagele, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, collaborated on the statement with 11 other doctors and scientists.

The AHA cites the aging US population as the main reason for increases in stroke cases and costs.

Medical economist Adam C. Powell, PhD, president of Payer+Provider Syndicate, told dailyRx News, "As the American population ages, and the obesity epidemic rages on, we will certainly see greater incidence of age-related and obesity-related disease. Improvements in medical care can improve survival rates and longevity. While these changes are positive, they can also increase the amount of money that society must spend on caring for those with disabilities."

The price of stroke goes beyond medical expenses, according to the AHA. Annual costs due to lost productivity could rise from $33.65 billion to $56.54 billion in 20 years. 

By 2030, Americans currently 45 to 64 years old are expected to have the highest increase in stroke at 5.1 percent. Stroke prevalence is projected to increase the most among Hispanic men, and the cost of treating stroke in Hispanic women is expected to triple.

Also, individuals without insurance have a 24 percent to 56 percent higher risk of death from stroke than those with insurance coverage, the statement said.

“Strokes will absolutely strain the healthcare system,” said Dr. Ovbiagele.

He added that caring for stroke survivors with long-term disability can be especially expensive.

“Ninety percent of stroke patients have residual disability and only 10 percent recover completely after a stroke,” Dr. Ovbiagele.

Knowing signs of stroke and getting medical treatment fast can improve outcomes.

“Getting patients specialized acute stroke care as soon as possible is critical,” Ovbiagele said. “During every minute of delayed treatment, brain cells are dying. EMS systems nationwide should take patients directly to a designated stroke center equipped to quickly diagnose and administer drugs to restore blood flow to the brain.”

The AHA also highlighted that the Affordable Care Act should help reduce the number of strokes, deaths and related costs when the law is fully implemented in 2014.

Expanding access to insurance coverage should improve access to primary care and the medications needed to control risk factors and help prevent stroke and to improve access to acute stroke treatment for those who were previously uninsured, according to the AHA.

To remember the sudden signs of stroke and take appropriate action, ASA endorses an easy-to-remember system called F.A.S.T.

  • Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?
  • Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb?
  • Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred, are you unable to speak, or are you hard to understand?
  • Time to call 9-1-1: If you have any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital immediately.

This statement was published in May in Stroke, an American Heart Association journal.

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Review Date: 
May 21, 2013