There is a lack of unified data about stroke and stroke outcomes. Europe-wide comparisons of stroke and stroke care are vital to help each country prevent stroke and provide better care and support for everyone affected by stroke. To make accurate comparisons between different countries, populations and health systems we need agreed and coordinated Europe-wide data collection. Therefore, European policy-makers, in particular the European Commission and the Joint Research Centre, should support and promote the use of a robust Europe-wide stroke register to assess quality of care along the whole stroke pathway.
The number of people having a stroke and the number of people living with the long-term effects of stroke will rise in the coming decades. Effective health care planning and adequate resource allocation across Europe is needed to deal with this, taking into account that the financial burden of stroke is to a large extent borne by stroke survivors themselves and their families.
There are limitations to the current research evidence from the perspective of European stroke survivors (for example, it is largely based on small studies from mostly Western European countries). This research should be conducted more widely throughout Europe, and consolidated findings should be used to influence patient care. SAFE believes that these studies should actively involve stroke survivors and patient organisations.
Despite public education campaigns, public knowledge about the risk factors for stroke is too low. Perhaps as a result, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation (AF, an abnormal heart rhythm with rapid and irregular beating) are often not treated or not appropriately treated. this section outlines what is being done across europe to tackle two important, modifiable risk factors for stroke.
Stroke is preventable.
Ten modifiable risk factors account for around 90% of all strokes. The most important are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity/diet, atrial fibrillation, and diabetes.
The proportion of the population estimated to have one or more stroke risk factors is high and varies significantly between countries (Figure 5)
Figure 5: Percentage of the population in European and SAFE member countries affected by some of the major vascular risk factors, ranked by the prevalence of hypertension
“I suffered a cerebral venous thrombosis in 2011 (I was 34 years old)…I was a journalist, editor of a weekly magazine…I did not have the time nor patience to practise sport…In addition to stress and sedentary lifestyle, also the use of oral contraceptives contributed – in the opinion of doctors – to my stroke”
(Female stroke survivor in 2011, Portugal