No Postcode Untouched – Preventing Strokes in North Sydney Electorate

The Stroke Foundation commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to update the Stroke Foundation’s No Postcode Untouched, Stroke in Australia 2020 report.  The No Postcode Untouched, Stroke in Australia 2020 maps stroke incidence, prevalence and risk factors by federal electorate division.  Lane Cove’s Federal Electorate is North Sydney.

This Stroke Foundation also commissioned a report on the economic impact of stroke in Australia, 2020.  Deloitte Access Economics has estimated that stroke costs the Australian economy $6.2 billion per year, including $3.6 billion in lost productivity. Read the report here.

Key Facts About Stroke

  • 8,926 NSW residents will experience a stroke for the first time in 2020 (27,428 Australians).
  • 145,066 survivors of stroke are living in NSW in 2020 (445,087 Australians).
  • 2,901 NSW residents will die as a result of stroke this year (8,703 Australians).
  • The economic cost of stroke exceeded $6.2 billion, with a further $26.0 billion in lost wellbeing – due to short and long-term disability, and premature death, nationally.
  • Reducing uncontrolled high blood pressure and providing quicker access to emergency stroke treatments has the potential to save $179.0 million over five years in economic costs, and $2.4 billion in reduced mortality and improved wellbeing annually.
  • Regional and rural Australians are 17 per cent more likely to experience a stroke than their metropolitan counterparts.
  • 24 per cent of strokes were in Australians aged 18-54 in 2020, in 2012 this number was 14 per cent.

Strokes in North Sydney – The Stats

The stats for North Sydney are quite sobering when you compare them to NSW and National figures.

In North Sydney, the gap between male and female stroke patients is less than 200 patients.

Nationally the 0 to 55 age group has seen an increase in stroke patients.


Risk Factors

Our cover photo shows the stroke risk factors for North Sydney residents.

High blood pressure

Around 4.7 million Australians have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke. The World Health Organization and the National Heart Foundation of Australia define ‘high’ blood pressure as systolic pressure at or above 140mmHg.

Major contributors to high blood pressure include poor diet (especially high salt intake), being overweight, excessive alcohol consumption and insufficient physical activity.

Research suggests that 48% of strokes could be prevented if high blood pressure was eliminated. Lowering blood pressure has been conclusively shown to prevent both ischaemic and haemorrhagic strokes, and it is equally important in secondary prevention.

Atrial fibrillation

Almost 385,000 Australians have an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. The prevalence of atrial fibrillation increases with age, affecting around 1 in 5 people aged 85 years or older. Atrial fibrillation is associated with one in four strokes.

Like high blood pressure, many people are unaware they suffer from atrial fibrillation and how serious the condition is. As a consequence, too few people are accessing life-saving treatments to control atrial fibrillation.

High Cholesterol

Almost 2.5 million Australians live with high cholesterol. High cholesterol is defined as total cholesterol greater than or equal to 5.5 mmol/L. 1 High cholesterol contributes to blood vessel disease, which often leads to stroke. High-density lipoprotein (‘good’) cholesterol helps to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, while low-density lipoprotein (‘bad’) cholesterol can increase risk. Cholesterol comes from two sources – the food we eat (of which only 50 per cent of the cholesterol may be absorbed) as well as that synthesised and metabolised in the body, mainly the liver, which is by far the greater amount. High cholesterol levels have been associated with ischaemic stroke – those caused by clots. Statins (a group of medicines that can help lower the level of bad cholesterol in the blood) are demonstrated to reduce the risk of stroke by about 20 per cent.

Physical inactivity

Over 3.1 million Australians, or around 12% of the Australian population report no physical activity within the past week. 1 There are also many more Australians who do not meet the National Physical Activity Guidelines which recommend 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous physical activity each week, with an aim to be active on most days of the week. 2

Insufficient physical activity may be linked to stroke, as well as other risk factors considered in this report such as being overweight or obese, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Daily smoking

Around 2.8 million Australians smoke on a daily basis. Smoking is a significant risk factor of stroke, with the Australian Burden of Disease Study estimating that smoking is attributable to 11% of the total burden of stroke. Smoking increases the likelihood of dying as a result of stroke, while a ‘pack a day’ smoker is more than six times as likely to have a stroke compared to a non-smoker.

Smoking has several effects on the body, including thickening the blood, increasing the risk of blood clots and thinning the arteries. Smoking also limits the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Overweight and obesity

More than 1 in 2 Australians are overweight or obese, with an estimated 13.8 million overweight or obese Australians in 2020. Overweight and obese Australians were defined by a body mass index of >25 (with a score of >30 representing obese Australians). Overweight and obesity are prevalent across all ages, though the likelihood peaks at around 60 years of age. At this age, more than 80% of men and 70% of women were overweight or obese.

Obesity or being overweight can contribute to other risk factors including high blood pressure and high cholesterol which heighten the risk of stroke.

Economic Impact

The economic impact of stroke in Australia, 2020 report uses financial modelling to estimate the economic impact of stroke, looking at direct health system costs as well as the broader impact of short and long-term disability on the community.

The Report also modelled savings that could be made by acting to reduce uncontrolled high blood pressure and provide greater access to emergency stroke treatments.

Stroke Foundation Research Advisory Committee Chair Professor Amanda Thrift said, “Stroke has long been recognised as being among the costliest disease groups, and while it is not the death sentence it once was for many, it is a leading cause of disability in this country,’’

Data contained in the reports has been delivered independent of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however, there is potential COVID-19 will affect its results. Evidence is emerging people have delayed trips to their doctor for health checks and chronic disease management since the pandemic began in January. Emergency calls to triple zero (000) and continuity of care have also been disrupted.

Stroke Foundation worked with leading stroke experts to identify achievable benchmarks in stroke prevention, treatment and care to stem the tide of this disease.

Stroke Foundation NSW State Manager Rhian Paton-Kelly said it was important to remember behind the numbers are real lives.

“Stroke attacks the brain, the human control centre, changing lives in an instant,’’ she said.

“It can strike anyone at any time, but it can be treated and damage reduced.

“The new NSW Telestroke Service, and supporting F.A.S.T. (Face. Arms. Speech. Time) Community Education, is improving access to emergency stroke treatment for our regional communities, but there is more to be done.

“The National Strategic Action Plan for Heart Disease and Stroke provides a roadmap of evidence-based interventions to address stroke, many of which have been modelled in this report.

“We have an opportunity to act now to change the course of this disease for generations to come. I look forward to working with governments to implement the Action Plan. It is an investment we can, and must, make for the health and wellbeing of our community,” she said.