The number of Canadians who are living with a long-term disability caused by a stroke is expected to jump by as much as 80 per cent over the next two decades, according to a new study.
A report published in the journal Stroke on Thursday indicates that by 2038 there could be between 654,000 and 726,000 Canadians dealing with the after-effects of the condition.
As of 2013, there were at least 405,000 people (191,000 men and 214,000 women) in Canada living with long-term disabilities caused by strokes.
Lead author Mark Bayley told CTV News Channel that a significant improvement in the survival rates for stroke victims and an aging baby-boom generation is likely responsible for the "dramatic rise."
"We're doing a better job of helping people survive strokes and we also have a marked increase of the aging of the population," said Bayley, medical director of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
He added that as baby boomers reach their late 70s and 80s, they will see the highest risk of a stroke.
A mix of other risk factors, including smoking and high blood pressure, will also contribute to the increase.
The study, which was prepared for the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada, found that the largest increases are projected for the Prairie provinces. The report says that the region could see between 116,000 and 132,000 stroke survivors living with disabilities, a jump of between 100 per cent and 128 per cent from 2013 levels.
Stoke disability numbers are also expected to rise across the board for all Canadian provinces:
  • Between 65 per cent and 71 per cent in the Atlantic provinces
  • Between 49 per cent 54 per cent in Quebec
  • Between 68 per cent and 74 per cent in Ontario
  • Between 87 per cent and 111 per cent in British Columbia
David Sculthorpe, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said the report highlights the need to keep pace, as the number of stroke-survivors rise.
"The good news is that we are creating more survivors, thanks to tremendous progress in stroke care," Sculthorpe said in a statement.
"But we need to do even more to keep up with the growing threat of stroke, including raising awareness of the signs of stroke and improving prevention and care."
There are an estimated 50,000 strokes in Canada each year, and 83 per cent of people survive the sudden loss of brain function. However, the condition can leave many sufferers with mild to severe disabilities.
"Unfortunately, the majority of those individuals will live with difficulties in the activities of their daily living, such as things you would take for granted: dressing yourself, walking, speaking and more importantly, enjoying time in the community," Bayley said.
"These people are going to need help as they age.”
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 25 per cent of stroke survivors recover with minor impairments, 40 per cent experience moderate to severe impairments that necessitate special care and another 10 per cent require treatment in a nursing home or long-term facility.
There are a range of neurological and physical side effects that result from a stroke, including: weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, muscle stiffness and spasms, problems with balance and co-ordination, difficulty with language, pain and numbness, memory problems, fatigue, depression, difficulty controlling emotions, trouble with day-to-day tasks and many others.
Recovery can take months or even years and many people never fully recover.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada's study says that about 36 per cent of stroke survivors are left with significant disabilities after five years and more than 40 per cent require help with day-to-day tasks, such as bathing and dressing.
Dr. Dale Corbett, a scientific director at the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, said that study shows the need to develop new techniques to help stroke survivors recover from the condition.
"These findings highlight the critical need for research to find and test innovative solutions to improve recovery for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with stroke disability," said Corbett.
For the first time, the report also included data on children under the age of 12 and people who are living in institutions.
However, the authors believe that the study likely underestimates the total scope of stroke survivors in Canada because it only includes people who have been diagnosed with physical or cognitive impairments lasting at least six months. Numbers were not collected on individuals who suffered a mild stroke, or a transient ischemic attack, and those living with dementia that has been caused by an undiagnosed stroke.