Current Status of the Epidemiology of Brain Infarction Associated with Occlusive Arterial Disease
Although large gaps in our knowledge concerning the epidemiology of cerebrovascular disease are apparent, careful inspection of all existing data now makes it possible to see certain patterns emerging which suggest certain risk factors for stroke.
While the problem of differential diagnosis of the various categories of cerebrovascular disease presents a major obstacle to obtaining an undistorted picture of the epidemiological features of stroke from death certificate mortality data, the addition of evidence from prospective studies, including those in Framingham, Massachusetts, reveals that various types of arterial occlusion with cerebral infarction are by far the most prevalent type of stroke. Any specific origin of atherosclerosis remains obscure, as possible etiological candidates including dietary alterations in salt, fat and refined carbohydrate, sedentary living, excessive calories promoting obesity, the cigarette habit and even the mineral content of water in addition to marital status have all been incriminated. However uncertain the final answer is, certain precursors for atherosclerosis, such as hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia, are important. Of these, hypertension is clearly the most important contributor to stroke incidence. Certain combinations of items carry more risk than do the same items singly. For example, the risk of a brain infarction in diabetics with hypertension is probably about six times that of normal subjects. In persons under 50 at the time of measurement risk of cerebral infarction is possibly ten times higher in those with hypertension and elevated lipids than in those without either elevated. This compounding of risk has pathogenetic, preventive and public health implications. For purposes of stroke screening alone the most efficient and practical method would be to determine casual blood pressure, although it must be stated that as yet there is uncertainty concerning the change in the risk if such blood pressure is treated.
- © 1971 American Heart Association, Inc.