Using over 25 years’ worth of data from more than 12,000 subjects, a team from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has concluded that the lifetime risk of suffering a stroke or developing dementia or Parkinson’s disease is 48 percent in women and 36 percent in men.
Their new study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, was undertaken with the hope that an accurate and straightforward quantification of the alarming prevalence of neurological disorders will bolster the call for increased research into preventative treatments.
“Recent estimates indicate that the global costs-of-illness for these diseases sum up to more than 2 percent of the annual world gross domestic product," the authors wrote. "This socioeconomic burden is expected to grow steeply with the aging of populations and continuing increases in life-expectancy worldwide.
“Yet, these common neurological diseases remain understudied in terms of prevention at the population level and underfunded compared with other common diseases such as cancer and heart disease, which likely reflects skewed societal perceptions of lifetime risk.”
Lead investigator Dr M Arfan Ikram and his colleagues note that past investigations have provided muddled estimates of prevalence because many don’t account for the fact these conditions often occur together – they share many risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol – or fail to analyze men and women separately (lifetime risk is different due to women’s longer life expectancy).
To provide a stronger portrait of disease likelihood, Ikram’s group turned to the dataset from the famous Rotterdam Study – an assessment of age-related diseases that followed nearly 15,000 residents, aged 45 and above, of a Rotterdam suburb for 26 years. Participants who had a history of any of the three diseases at the study onset were excluded, leaving 12,102 individuals.
The team’s analysis of health records from the cohort showed the risks listed above and many more jarring statistics. When assessing the diseases individually, they found that dementia was more common in women (26 percent risk) than men (14 percent risk). For stroke, men and women had a similar lifetime risk (19 percent each after 45 years of age), but men were more likely to have a stroke at younger ages. Various Parkinson's-like disorders were rare and showed similar rates across sexes.