N.L. stroke death rate highest in Canada

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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A new report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation shows the death rate from strokes is higher in Newfoundland and Labrador than any other Canadian province by a substantial margin.

Based on data from 2011-12, there were 29.9 deaths attributed to  stroke per 100,000 people in the province. That’s well above the Canadian average of 17.9 deaths. The province with the closest death rate to Newfoundland and Labrador is New Brunswick at 22.4.

Lou Ann Kelly, a stroke survivor who is also a nursing educator based in St. John’s, said Newfoundland and Labrador’s aging population would contribute to that figure, though she notes a stroke can happen at any age. Kelly was 46 when she experienced a stroke in December 2011.

“It has been a struggle,” said Kelly, who only returned to work in March of this year. “But I’ve had some fantastic doctors and therapists, as well as family and friends to support me through this.”

According to Kelly, delays in accessing medical treatment upon suffering a stroke may contribute to the higher-than-average death rate in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Our population is a lot more rural than it is urban, so they’re away form the bigger centres that would manage strokes in a more timely and effective manner,” she said.

Kelly is part of a demographic (ages 24 to 64) whose stroke rate is expected to double in the next 15 years. While strokes have most commonly afflicted people older than 70, data in the new Heart and Stroke Foundation report shows strokes among people in their 50s have increased 24 per cent over the last decade. For those in their 60s, strokes have increased 13 per cent over the same time frame.

Though death rates for cardiovascular disease and stroke have declined by more than 75 per cent over the last 60 years, an estimated 50,000 strokes still occur in Canada each year.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has determined strokes cost the economy $3.6 billion annually through a combination of lost productivity, doctor bills, hospital costs and lost wages.

With quick access to medical treatment an essential aspect of dealing with a stroke, Kelly said it is good that Newfoundland and Labrador is moving towards having provincewide access to a 911 service.

“Every second, not just minute, but every second counts in the improved survival and prognosis,” said Kelly.

A big part of preventing strokes revolves around education. The report notes up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable.

“A lot of that comes with education and as well health promotion,” said Kelly.

Ironically, it was at the gym while working out that Kelly suffered her stroke. Being well enough to return to work this year was a big milestone for her.

“It’s just what made me feel whole and complete again,” said Kelly, who added her colleagues at work have been extremely supportive.

 

 

Organizations: Heart and Stroke Foundation, Public Health Agency of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, New Brunswick

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