Experts say we need to change the approach to preventing strokes, and there could be an app to help.

Professor Valery Feigin from New Zealand’s AUT National Institute for Stroke & Applied Neurosciences, has led an examination of the gaps in, and pros and cons of, current population-wide and high-risk prevention strategies for stroke.

“The fast increasing stroke burden across all countries of the world suggests that our current primary stroke and cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention strategies are simply not effective enough,” she said.

Her team found that for primary stroke prevention to be effective, the focus should be shifted from high-risk prevention to prevention at any level of CVD risk, with a specific focus on behavioural risk factors.

“A ‘motivational population-wide strategy ’could open a new page in primary prevention of not only stroke and CVD, but also other non-communicable disorders worldwide” says Professor Feigin.

“Stroke is now no longer a disease of the elderly, with more than 60% of all strokes occurring in people aged under 65 years. It is a worrying trend. More and more people are of workable age and the devastating effects of stroke on survivors will be long-lasting.”

The researchers suggest motivating people to reduce their stroke risk using smartphone technologies could bridge the gaps in current approach to stroke prevention.

One such app is the Stroke Riskometer - a tool designed to empower people to know both their absolute and relative risks of having a stroke within the next 5 to 10 years, motivating them to reduce their risk of stroke.

In 2014, the app was voted by senior American doctors as the number 1 app in Medical Conditions among 100 000 + health-related apps worldwide.

It is endorsed not only by all major international organisations (World Stroke Organization, World Federation of Neurology, World Heart Federation and European Stroke Organisation) but also an increasing number of national stroke organisations, including China Stroke Association, Australian Stroke Foundation and the National Russian Organisation for the Fight Against Stroke.

Past studies have shown that 78 per cent of adults without current cardiovascular disease have two or more modifiable CVD risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, body mass index, smoking, physical activity or diet, and therefore will have a noticeably increased relative risk of stroke shown in the app – at least enough to motivate them to reduce their risk.

In addition to these risk factors, the app includes additional risk factors such as alcohol intake, stress, family history of CVD and diabetes; therefore, the proportion of adults free from CVD disease who have two or more CVD risk factors included in the app is likely to be noticeably more than 78 per cent.

The AUT paper is accessible here.