SOUTH-WEST Victoria has been identified as one of the nation’s stroke hot spots, with new research warning of the dangers of physical inactivity.
New statistics released by the National Stroke Foundation found the south-west was in the top bracket for stroke cases and stroke survivors, with doctors pointing to sedentary lifestyles as one of the factors.
More than 2.3 per cent of south-west residents are stroke survivors, higher than the 1.9 per cent national average.
The figures also reveal about 27 in every 10,000 of the region’s residents suffered a stroke during the past financial year, with the nationwide figure at only 22 in every 10,000 Australians.
Greater Green Triangle director James Dunbar said the latest statistics reinforced the need for people with a family history of heart disease to receive regular check-ups.
He said stroke rates would continue to rise in line with the growing proportion of the population who were either overweight or obese.
“The south-west of Victoria is noted for its high rates of cardiovascular disease,” Professor Dunbar said.
“Heart attacks are more common but strokes are usually more devastating. The explanation for these higher rates is reasonably simple: high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking.
“Those three factors account for 75 per cent of cases.”
Hamilton doctor Dale Ford said the results were not surprising given the region’s high rates of cardiovascular disease.
He said the connection between stroke and obesity was well known by most Australians, yet it remained a major medical challenge for most GPs nationwide.
“Most people are aware of the risk factors. What’s important is actively addressing them,” Dr Ford said.
“It’s more complex than just being obese, although it is a major factor. Improving diet, regular exercise and awareness around blood pressure and cholesterol levels would help to reduce stroke rates.”
National Stroke Foundation chief executive Erin Lalor said physical inactivity had unfortunately become a part of everyday life for many people, with sit-down jobs and passive leisure activities.
Her organisation’s report found nationally that 51,000 strokes were suffered every year, which equated to almost 1000 per week.
“Our report shows that no postcode is untouched by stroke,” Dr Lalor said.
“Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer.”