Facts and Figures about Stroke

Stroke is a condition where the blood supply to the brain is disrupted, resulting in oxygen starvation, brain damage and loss of function. It is most frequently caused by a clot in an artery supplying blood to the brain, a situation known as ischemia. It can also be caused by hemorrhage when a burst vessel causes blood to leak into the brain. Stroke can cause permanent damage, including partial paralysis and impairment in speech, comprehension and memory. The extent and location of the damage determines the severity of the stroke, which can range from minimal to catastrophic.

Stroke has already reached epidemic proportions. 1 in 6 people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke each year and 5.8 million people die from it. Current trends suggest that the number of annual deaths will climb to 6.7 million by 2015 without appropriate action.

Stroke claims a life every 6 seconds. It is the second leading cause of death for people above the age of 60, and the fifth leading cause in people aged 15 to 59. And it affects children as well as both men and women. Stroke is responsible for more deaths annually than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. In the United States, stroke is the third most common cause of death, exceeded only by cancer and coronary heart disease, and it claims a life every three minutes.

Stroke is also one of the leading causes of long-term disability worldwide.It now disproportionately affects individuals living in resource-poor countries. From 2000 to 2008, the overall stroke incidence rates in low- to middle-income countries exceeded that of incidence rates seen in high-income countries by 20%. Today, 2 out of every 3 people who suffer from a stroke live in low- and middle-income countries.

One of the main disease processes leading to stroke is atherosclerosis. The incidence of stroke increases significantly with age. There are many other risk factors, including tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, raised blood lipid levels, obesity, male gender, genetic disposition and psychological factors.