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MUSC-AHA study: US stroke deaths declining

Contact: Heather Woolwine
CHARLESTON – Sometimes things not only feel like the right things to do, they are proven to be the right things to do. In an exhaustive review of stroke mortality and treatment in the U.S., led by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA), researchers determined that stroke deaths dramatically declined in recent decades due to improved treatment and prevention.

A scientific statement published today in the AHA/ASA journal Stroke provides further documentation that people can make changes to better manage and reduce their stroke risk.

AHA/ASA commissioned the paper to discuss reasons that stroke dropped from the third to fourth leading cause of death.

“The decline in stroke deaths is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Daniel T. Lackland, Dr. P.H., chair of the statement writing committee and MUSC professor of epidemiology. “The decline is real, not a statistical fluke or the result of more people dying of lung disease, the third leading cause of death.”

Lackland credited public health efforts including lowering blood pressure and hypertension control that started in the 1970s as contributing to the change in mortality, as well as smoking cessation programs, and improved control of diabetes and abnormal cholesterol levels. Improvement in acute stroke care and treatment is associated with lower death rates.

“We can’t attribute these positive changes to any one or two specific actions or factors as many different prevention and treatment strategies had a positive impact,” Lackland said. “Policymakers now have evidence that the money spent on stroke research and programs aimed at stroke prevention and treatment has been spent wisely and lives have been saved.”

Lackland applauded the general public for efforts made to prevent strokes by addressing risk factors as simple as eating less salt to quitting smoking. These efforts largely contributed to stroke deaths dropping in men and women of all racial and ethnic groups and ages, he said.

“Although all groups showed improvement, there are still great racial and geographic disparities with stroke risks as well many people having strokes at young ages,” Lackland said. “We need to keep doing what works and to better target these programs to groups at higher risk.”

About MUSC
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 13,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.7 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (one of 66 National Cancer Institute designated centers) and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit For more information on hospital patient services, visit



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