Currently there are nearly 800,000 strokes occurring annually in the US with millions more people, who, like the Founder, are living with the after-effects of earlier strokes. That makes stroke the fourth most common serious diagnosis after the likes of cancer and heart disease.
Unfortunately the numbers will be growing! As the projected baby-boomer demographics become a reality, our nation will be populated with a larger number of individuals 65 and older. It is not unreasonable to expect those numbers to climb to well over one million new diagnoses annually. Likewise, the survivor figures will grow to eight to ten million. That’s a lot of people and a lot of families!
And these numbers are only for the United States.
Often people think of stroke as an elder disease. That perception is far from true. Actually, using 2009 data*, the most recent available, 34% of new diagnoses are in people under 65, as I was. And today, as many of us know, 65 is the new 50! Surprising to many is that many survivors are in their forties or younger. And children can also have strokes. The Founder recently met a lovely woman whose baby had a stroke and ultimately passed away.
Another really disturbing fact - today - stroke is the number one long-term disabler. Do you know what it means to become disabled? It’s not much fun!
The disease is highly complex in that there are many types of strokes. Furthermore, no two strokes are alike and no two outcomes are the same, all of which has serious implications for stroke rehabilitation and recovery. It is then, a “bespoke” disease—interesting in that something “bespoke,” is differentiated, unique or custom-made and is typically associated with excellence--a custom-built car, a custom-fitted English suit. With stroke, it’s quite the opposite—“custom” means it is extraordinarily difficult, time consuming and often expensive to treat.
While there are many gifted cardiologists and neurologists, many of whom treat other significant diseases of the brain and heart, there are not nearly enough professionals who specialize in stroke, particularly in light of the incidence numbers and disability implications.
Considering that Stroke is so ubiquitous, one might think that there would be a greater emphasis placed on better understanding the disease. Enter The Stroke Research Foundation!
What is needed is a substantially larger body of healthcare clinicians and researchers, appropriate to the size of the problem and the number of new diagnoses, who are unwavering in their commitment to understand and cure the disease called ‘stroke’. For emphasis, one thing I think that is missing in the medical lexicon is the term strokeologist for any medical professional or stroke researcher who specializes in treating, researching and curing stroke.
And perhaps equally important to changing the view regarding stroke, is a need to shift the perception —from stroke victim to stroke victor! For anyone who addresses and beats stroke, and anyone involved in helping others to beat stroke truly is a “Stroke Victor.” This will certainly take time, serious advocacy and funding of research to complement that insufficient amount which is currently underway.
The Stroke Research Foundation will play a leading and critical role in addressing this gaping need.
Stroke survivors, their caregivers and communities need your help. And you never know - you may need the help also! I hope not!!
* Johns Hopkins Medical