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Key Facts

  • Stroke is a medical and sometimes a surgical emergency;
  • It accounts for 5 million deaths annually and is the second leading cause of death worldwide;
  • Age, gender, race and lifestyle can all have an impact on an individual’s risk of stroke;
  • More patients survive stroke today than in the past, but a large proportion of them will be disabled for the rest of their lives.

What is stroke?

A stroke is a medical and sometimes a surgical emergency. It is caused by an interruption of the blood supply to the brain, usually because a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a blood clot (thrombosis). This cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, causing damage to the brain tissue resulting in a number of physical symptoms. Disability following a stroke varies greatly depending on factors such as the part of the brain affected, how quickly treatment was given, and the extent of the damage to the brain. A very severe stroke can cause sudden death.

The scale of the problem

Annually, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke,  of these, 5 million die, making it the second leading cause of death. Of these another 5 million are left permanently disabled, placing a burden on family and community.

The incidence of stroke is declining in many developed countries, largely as a result of better control of high blood pressure, and reduced levels of smoking. However, the absolute number of strokes continues to increase because of the ageing population.

Stroke fact sheet – PDF