THOUSANDS of people in Scotland could be saved from having a stroke by 2035 if research into the latest stroke prevention procedures were properly funded, according to a report published today.

Stroke is the third most common killer in Scotland and the leading cause of disability, but most strokes can be avoided.

A report, by the Stroke Association and carried out at Queen Mary University of London and London School of Economics, estimates that a £10 million investment in research into interventions such as blood pressure management, treatments for atrial fibrillation which increases the risk of stroke, and treatments to prevent haemorrhagic stroke - the deadliest type - would cut by 114,000 the number of people living with a stroke in UK by 2035.

The report also called for additional research cash for physical and cognitive rehabilitation, vascular dementia and thrombectomy - the emergency surgical removal of blood clots.

The report projects that the annual cost to the NHS of stroke are set to treble from £3.4 billion in 2015 to £10.2 billion in 2035, but that targeted spending in these priority research areas in the next few years "could generate benefits that substantially reduce the burden of stroke by 2035".

The report also estimates that the number of first-time strokes among people over 45 will increase 59 per cent by 2035, but that there will be a 123 per cent increase in the number of patients surviving.

Andrea Cail, Director Scotland of the Stroke Association, said: “The annual number of stroke survivors is expected to increase dramatically by 2035. It’s clear that we need to act now to prevent the UK from sleepwalking towards a stroke crisis.”

Around 145,000 people in Scotland are known to suffer from atrial fibrillation (AF) - a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. The condition increases the risk of stroke five-fold.

However, many patients are on a treatment that is not effectively lowering their stroke risk, while an estimated 49,414 people in Scotland are living with undiagnosed AF.

High blood pressure, the biggest controllable risk factor for stroke, can also go undetected or poorly managed.

Ms Cail added: “Stroke causes a greater range of disabilities than any other condition, but research into stroke remains underfunded. For example, haemorrhagic stroke is the most deadly type of stroke, and those patients who do survive are more likely to experience severe disability. Currently there are no effective treatments for these strokes, which are caused by bleeds rather than clots in the brain.

"We urgently need to find effective ways to prevent the devastation that haemorrhagic stroke can bring, as well preventing and managing conditions that increase the risk of stroke, such as AF and high blood pressure.”

Across the UK, the annual medical research-spend per stroke patient is £48, compared with £241 per cancer patient and £118 per dementia patient.

Professor Anita Patel, who led the research, said: “Increasing our investment into stroke research will help us turn the tide for people with a higher risk of stroke, allowing us to take steps to prevent the condition more widely. For example, we know that current treatments for high blood pressure do not work for everyone, and are not always used properly.

"More research could help us discover which medication and dosage works best for different people, ensuring we can help prevent more people from having a stroke. This in turn would help to ease the pressure on the already overstretched NHS budgets.”


CHARLIE Ross first knew something was wrong when he got up for work one Friday morning in May 2010 and could not move his leg high enough to climb into the shower cubicle.

"I just said to my wife 'I think you need to take me to hospital - there's something bad here'," he said.

Mr Ross, from Bishopton in Renfrewshire, was only 54 at the time and was shocked when doctors diagnosed a "mini-stroke", or TIA (transient ischaemic attack). It is caused by a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain and is a warning sign that the patient is at a significantly increased risk of a full stroke in the near future.

Mr Ross was discharged with aspirin and told to rest, but on the Saturday night he suffered a serious attack.

He said: "When I went down to get my dinner I felt kind of woozy. I thought I would just get better, but I couldn't eat my dinner and when I got up from the dining room I got about 20ft and just lost everything on the right-hand side of my body - my leg, my arm, and ended up on the floor in this alcove. That was it - I'd taken another stroke."

Mr Ross, who was then a regional account sales manager, spent three weeks recovering in hospital but seven years on he says his right-arm is "pretty useless" and his walking laboured. He took redundancy in 2014 and helps out in clinical trials into stroke, but says the fatigue following the stroke can be "unbelievable".

He has also suffered serious falls at home - breaking four ribs when he fell days before his son's wedding, and then breaking his hip on his 60th birthday last year.

Although he has learned how to drive a disability-adapted car and says being left-handed was a "saving grace", he misses being able to hold his one-year-old grandson, also called Charlie.

He said: "He's our first grandson so you miss out on things like picking him up. He's starting to toddle and walk a wee bit and he's desperate to hold your hand, but I think he's got more chance of finishing a circuit than I would.

"You have to compensate for it with other things, so I read to him and things like that."

Since his stroke, Mr Ross, now 61, has learned that he had "out of control" diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol.

He said: "I wouldn't say I was superfit, but I was the kind of person who liked to get up early and walk the dog. I'd go on long walks at the weekend. I was active. I'd never smoked.

"But I suppose I had an unhealthy lifestyle work-wise. I was a regional account manager and I used to do long distances driving around Scotland, long hours, stress - that wasn't good for me. I was eating 'on the hoof', so I think that didn't help it. I wish I'd looked after myself more. You've got to listen to your body - when it's not right, it's not right. There were warning signs.

"But before that apart from sniffles and coughs, that was it - and there is no history in my family of strokes. We never had anything more than paracetamol in the house. It was just out the blue.

"I didn't even know what a stroke was to be honest. I'd heard of it, but it tended to be in older people. I never suspected that at my age you could get a stroke. At hospital it was a rude awakening because there were people there younger than myself."