There has been a worrying rise in the number of working-age men and women having strokes, a charity has warned.
In England in 2014 there were 6,221 hospital admissions for men aged 40-54 – a rise of 1,961 on 14 years earlier, a Stroke Association study shows.
Experts said unhealthy lifestyles were partly to blame for the rise, though the growing population and changes to hospital practice also played a part.
Overall the rate of strokes is going down in the UK, however.
Researchers say, based on their findings, strokes should not be considered as a disease of the old.
The Stroke Association described the increase as alarming and shocking and warned that the cost of treatment – already at £9bn a year – would increase.
Jon Barrick, the charity’s chief executive, said rising numbers of overweight people help explain the increase among the middle-aged, he said. “We’ve known for some time that obesity levels in the UK have been on the rise, putting thousands at increased risk of a stroke. This goes some way in explaining these shocking stroke rates, which are a sad indictment of the current state of the UK’s health.”
Mr Barrick advised those at risk to take more exercise, eat a healthier diet and get their blood pressure checked regularly.
The overall stroke incidence rate fell from 141.97 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 115.50 per 100,000 in 2010, partly as result of the fall in smoking rates in recent decades.
But the charity said the rise in hospital admission figures was due to the growing and ageing
A spokeswoman for NHS England warned that the rise would lead to more middle-aged people suffering a “heavy financial impact” as a result. Loss of income due to death and disability caused by a stroke has been estimated to cost those affected £1.3bn a year.
The Department of Health refused to comment directly on the rise but said: “Strokes can have a devastating impact on people and their families. Adopting a healthier lifestyle, like plenty of exercise and eating the right food, is really important to reduce the risk of stroke.”