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"Stroke" is a portmanteau term covering any insult to neurological tissue which results from a marked restriction or cessation of blood supply to it. There are two fundamentally different kinds of stroke: hemorrhagic and ischemic. Hemorrhagic strokes, which account for 20 percent of all strokes, take place when vascular lesions rupture, releasing blood into the surrounding brain tissue. The remaining 80 percent of strokes are ischemic in character, caused by the obstruction or clogging of the major arteries in the cerebral circulation.

According to the American Heart Association:

  • Stroke killed 159,791 people in 1997 and is the third largest cause of death, ranking behind "diseases of the heart" and all forms of cancer. Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.
  • About 4,400,000 stroke survivors are alive today.

  • Data from the NHLBI's Atherosclerotic Risk in Communities (ARIC) study and Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) show that about 600,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. About 500,000 of these are first attacks and 100,000 are recurrent attacks.

  • In 1997 females accounted for 60.8 percent of stroke fatalities.

  • The latest data show that, overall, the morbidity of stroke (incidence and prevalence) is about equal for men and women. However, more than half of total stroke deaths occur in women. At all ages, more women than men die of stroke.

  • From 1987 to 1997 the death rate from stroke declined 13.9 (14.8) percent, but the actual number of stroke deaths rose 6.6 percent. (The first percentage is based on the year 2000 age-adjusted U.S. standard. The second is based on the 1940 standard.) The 1997 death rates per 100,000 population for stroke were 61.5 (25.7) for white males and 88.5 (48.6) for black males; and 57.9 (22.5) for white females and 76.1 (37.9) for black females. (The first death rates listed are based on the year 2000 age-adjusted U.S. standard. The second ones are based on the 1940 standard.)

The Cost of Stroke to all Americans

  • Stroke is our nation's third leading cause of death, killing nearly 160,000 Americans every year.

  • Every year approximately 730,000 Americans have a new or recurrent stroke.

  • Every minute in the United States, someone experiences a stroke.

  • Over the course of a lifetime, four out of every five American families will be touched by stroke.

  • Stroke is the largest single cause of neurologic crippling in our nation.

  • Approximately one-third of all stroke survivors will have another stroke within five years.

  • Of the 570,000 Americans who survive a stroke each year, approximately 10 to 18 percent will have another stroke within one year. The rate of having another stroke is about 10 percent per year thereafter.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of adult disability. Four million Americans are living with the effects of stroke. About one-third have mild impairments, another third are moderately impaired and the remainder are severely impaired.

Stroke costs the United States $30 billion annually. Direct costs, such as hospitals, physicians and rehabilitation add up to $17 billion; indirect costs, such as lost productivity, total $13 billion. The average cost per patient for the first 90 days post-stroke is $15,000, although 10 percent of the cases exceed $35,000. (PORT Study)

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