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What is a stroke?

A stroke is an episode of rapid-onset neurologic dysfunction resulting from injury to the brain, spinal cord or retina (CNS) that is caused by interruption of bloodflow (ischemia) leading to focal infarction, or by bleeding into or around the brain (hemorrhage).

Permanent disabilities that are commonly produced by a stroke include:

  • Some Weakness or paralysis one one side of the body
  • Inability to walk without some assistance
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Difficulty in talking or in understanding what is being said
  • Visual impairment
  • Depressed mood
  • Dependence on others to carry out activities of daily living (ADLs)

Review Key Facts

Stroke Facts

All Data Refer to the United States (2018)
  • About 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke each year.
  • All told, about 7.2 million adults >20 years old report having had a stroke.
  • Non-Hispanic black adults are nearly twice as likely as Non-Hispanic white adults to have a history of stroke. Some projections suggest this disparity may increase by 2030.
  • Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. (behind diseases of the heart, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and unintentional injuries/accidents). Worldwide, stroke is the second most common cause of death after ischemic heart disease.
  • Overall more women than men die of stroke, due to the larger number of elderly women.
  • From 2005 to 2015 the number of stroke deaths declined by 21.7 percent – perhaps reflecting the success of increased hypertension control efforts.
  • The prevalence of stroke increases with age in both men and women; however a significant number of strokes also occur in individuals under the age of 65.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.
  • The estimated direct and indirect cost of stroke in 2013-2014 was $40.1 billion.