Incidence of stroke 'highly avoidable'

Valery Feigin
Valery Feigin
Leading Auckland health researcher Prof Valery Feigin says 90% of New Zealand's annual stroke death toll could ultimately be prevented, despite the country's ''very alarming'' obesity problems.

About 2500 people die from stroke in this country each year, and stroke is also the leading cause of adult disability.

Prof Feigin, a professor of epidemiology and neurology, and director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, at AUT University, Auckland, gave a public talk in Dunedin this week on aspects of ''acquired brain injury''.

Prof Feigin was co-author of a recent major study published in the Lancet, which reported that New Zealand's rates of adult and child obesity were higher than those of Australia.

He also recently said that being overweight was ''a well-established risk factor for stroke, heart attack, dementia and cancer'', New Zealand's four major causes of death and disability.

More action was needed to counter an obesity epidemic and it was ''very alarming'' that New Zealand had the highest rates of adult and child obesity in the region, he said.

Prof Feigin said in an interview he remained an optimist.

Most strokes were ''highly preventable'' and 90% of such deaths could be avoided, he said.

Individuals could do more to reduce their stroke risk, both by clarifying their level of risk, with medical help, and also through exercising more and improving diet.

Walking for half an hour a day significantly improved cardiovascular health, and people could also reduce their stroke risk by cutting their intake of salt by about 2g a day.

Action by the food industry and by government was needed to reduce salt levels, because most of the excess salt New Zealanders consumed was in processed foods, he said.

Prof Feigin's talk was part of a two-day conference, organised by the University of Otago Brain Health Research Centre.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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