May 16 (UPI) -- The number of strokes in the United States has fallen drastically over the last 40 years, and the sharpest decline has been among older adults, new research shows.
Strokes have dropped by 53 percent for adults older than age 55, according to a study published Tuesday in Stroke. Middle-aged adults, those between ages 35 and 55, also saw stroke numbers decline by roughly 39 percent.
"Most strokes at midlife were due to diseases of the arteries caused by a clot migrating from the heart," Hugo J. Aparicio, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University and study author, said in a press release. "We also looked at vascular risk factors, such as hypertension and smoking, which have been declining among both age groups over time."
The researchers estimated the rate of stroke between four time periods -- 1962 to 1967, 1971 to 1976, 1987 to 1991 and 1998 -- using data from the Framingham Heart Study.
"Our findings demonstrate how continued preventative efforts need to be made to reduce the occurrence of stroke among middle-aged adults," Aparicio said. "Namely, we emphasize a focus on public health education and controlling vascular risk factors such as blood pressure, diabetes and smoking."
The researchers suspect preventative technology like MRI and CT scans have given doctors more nuance about less common stroke symptoms, particularly for young adults who aren't worried about stroke risk.
"Physicians should continue to emphasize to their patients that stroke can occur at any age," Aparicio said. "Lifestyle choices such as exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and getting proper sleep likely will reduce the risk of stroke at middle age, just as it does in later life."