A stroke happens approximately every five minutes in Canada, according to a new study from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the University of Calgary.
“Definitely a large burden for our health care system to be dealing with,” said Jessalyn Holodinsky, postdoctoral fellow at the U of C and lead author of the study.
The study looked at how many people with a stroke visited hospitals or emergency departments across the country from 2017 to 2018.
The result was 108,707.
“These estimates provide a more comprehensive view of the burden of stroke on the health care system compared to previous estimates only looking at hospitalized stroke patients,” the study said.
Holodinsky said it’s clear strokes are on the rise in Canada and that the study can help those in the health care sector plan ahead.
“Preparing our emergency systems for stroke and definitely preparing our rehab systems for those stroke survivors is something that’s really important to consider going forward,” she told CTV News.
People who are older are at higher risk of stroke, and as the population ages, that number is expected to go up.
However, strokes can happen at any age and a higher number of younger people are having them, according to Heart and Stroke.
Dr. Michael Hill, senior medical director for the Cardiovascular Health and Stroke Strategic Clinical Network at Alberta Health Services, said stroke prevention is crucial.
“The main risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. So, I guess the commonest thing we find is people don’t even know they have high blood pressure. So, you know, make sure you get it checked” he said.
Hill said maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle, treating diabetes if you have it and not smoking can also help.
He also encourages people to familiarize themselves with FAST, an acronym used to identify the signs of stroke.
It stands for face, arms, speech and time.
If a person’s face is drooping, if they can’t raise both arms and if their speech is slurred or jumbled, it’s time to call 911 right away.
“If you can get your colleague or your spouse or your mother to us fast at the hospital, we can help them,” Hill said.
“We’ve had a lot of evolution of therapeutics in stroke, so we’re able to treat people and make them better.”
While strokes are happening more often, more people are also surviving.
According to Heart and Stroke, the number of Canadians living with a stroke has gone up to 878,000.
But, about half of them need some help with daily activities like eating, bathing and getting dressed.
“We have to make sure the rest of the system is there and has all the right resources to help people continue their journey after that immediate hospitalization piece to have the best recovery, get the rehabilitation they need,” said Patrice Lindsay, director of health systems at Heart and Stroke.
Lindsay said they will continue to look at the latest hospital data to address the burden on the health care system and improve stroke care.