By Amir Khan
Costs associated with a stroke are expected to double by the year 2030, according to a report released today by the American Heart Association, and unless steps are taken immediately, the healthcare industry could become overwhelmed.
"Strokes will absolutely strain the healthcare system," Bruce Ovbiagele, M.D., M.Sc., lead author and chairman of the department of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, said in a statement.
An aging population is one of the key drivers of the expected cost increase, said Jose Biller, MD, a stroke specialist with Loyola University Medical Center.
"The increased prevalence of stroke is due to a perfect storm of factors, including the aging population and the increase in obesity, diabetes and atrial fibrillation," he said. "The cost of treating strokes will be a significant burden to our healthcare system."
In addition, researchers said that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, may lead to more stroke-related costs as well.
"Expanding access to affordable, adequate health insurance coverage can be expected to reduce stroke mortality in the future," researchers wrote in the study. "Because more people will survive a stroke, disease prevalence and costs will increase."
Experts estimate that costs to treat stroke will increase from $71.5 billion in 2010 to $183 billion in 2030, which much of the cost due to the long-term care that many stroke survivors require.
"Ninety percent of stroke patients have residual disability and only 10 percent recover completely after a stroke," Dr. Ovbiagele said in the statement. "Policy makers at all levels of governance should be aware of this looming crisis so that we can consider practical ways to avert it."
One such way to prevent the crisis is to take steps to reduce your risk for stroke, Dr. Biller said.
"As a society, we are not as healthy as we could be," he said, "We need to do much better at controlling other risk factors, including obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation."
And while the report is scary, Richard Libman, MD, chief of the division of vascular neurology at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, NY, said it is necessary to urge people to take care of themselves.
"The article reminds us that stroke is an immense public health problem," he said. "It not only causes enormous suffering and disability for the stroke victim, but requires huge financial resources and is a drain on our society as a whole."
Ultimately, he added, it's important to use these findings to help prevent them from becoming reality.
"Even if we cannot present all strokes," Dr. Libman said, "continued investment in research to find new treatments and rehabilitation strategies can prevent suffering on the human level and also save billions of dollars in health care costs."
"Stroke Costs To Top $183 Billion By 2030" originally appeared on Everyday Health.