The impact of stroke is devastating. It is the fourth single leading cause of death in the UK, and a leading cause of disability, associated with a broader range of disabilities than any other condition.
A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. This starves the brain of oxygen, with devastating consequences. Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in the UK, and a leading cause of disability.
There are two types of stroke:
Ischaemic strokes are caused by a blockage (usually a blood clot) cutting off the blood supply to the brain. About 85% of strokes are ischaemic.
Haemorrhagic strokes are caused by a blood vessel bursting in the brain.
A stroke is a medical emergency. It is vital that anyone with a suspected stroke receives medical attention as quickly as possible.
Public awareness of the FAST test can help people to identify the signs of stroke and call 999 as quickly as possible.
Face: has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
Arms: can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech: is their speech slurred?
Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs of stroke.
Stroke occurs more than 100,000 times per year in the UK, once every five minutes.
Age is the most important factor for stroke: it is most likely to occur after the age of 55. But younger people are affected too, even children - there are around 400 childhood strokes every year in the UK.
Stroke is the fourth single leading cause of death in the UK, responsible for 35,000 deaths annually. That's a life lost every 17 minutes.
The good news is that the number of deaths from stroke is going down. This is partly due to a reduction in the incidence of strokes, but also thanks to greater awareness of symptoms - meaning that help is sought sooner, so that treatment is given sooner, limiting the harm caused. Emergency treatments have also improved.
These lower mortality rates mean that more people are surviving stroke than ever before. It is estimated that there are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK today.
The number of deaths from stroke continues to decrease, thanks to innovations in emergency treatment and care, along with improving public awareness of the signs of stroke and the need urgent medical attention.
Investment in rehabilitation hasn't kept pace. Stroke is a leading cause of disability, with almost two thirds of survivors leaving hospital with a disability. The range of disabilities is greater than for any other condition and includes limb weakness, visual problems, and language and communication problems. Extreme fatigue is also a common side effect, and depression and anxiety are common.
Two-thirds of working-age survivors are unable to return to work.
Acquired brain and spinal cord injury – including stroke – is one of Brain Research UK's three priority research areas. This recognises a high level of unmet need for research in this field and means that we are specifically calling for proposals in acquired brain and spinal cord injury under our annual PhD studentship and project grant schemes.
We are currently funding the following projects in stroke: