Neurological conditions /


The impact of stroke is devastating. It is the fourth single leading cause of death in the UK, and the single biggest cause of severe disability, associated with a broader range of disabilities than any other condition.

What is a stroke? 

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 the single biggest cause of severe 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.

The FAST test – act FAST

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 numbers

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 34,000 deaths annually. That's a life lost every 15 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 1.4 million stroke survivors in the UK today.

The impact of stroke

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 for urgent medical attention.

Investment in rehabilitation hasn't kept pace. Stroke is the leading cause of severe disability in the UK. 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.

Andy, pictured here with our Head of Fundraising Pippa Ball, completed the 2024 London Marathon.

One of our inspirational supporters, Andy, suffered a stroke in 2011, at the age of 46. This resulted from a serious complication during what should have been a minor operation. Andy had been at the peak of a high-flying career that took him all over the world. This all came crashing down following his stroke. But he fought back with ferocious determination, despite doctors giving him just a 5% chance of survival.

The stroke left Andy with only half of his brain functioning properly. It had damaged the areas controlling language expression and comprehension, as well as the areas controlling the right-hand side of his body. He was unable to speak and unable to use his right arm. Returning home after six months in hospital, he was unable to do anything for himself. He had to relearn how to walk, talk, eat, drink, dress himself. Everything. It took four long years of very hard work to regain his mobility and his ability to talk, work that is still ongoing.  

He has overcome his substantial physical limitations, however, to complete some formidable challenges, including, most recently, the 2024 London Marathon. Read Andy's story.

References:  British Heart Foundation, UK Factsheet, January 2024

How we help: our research in stroke

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 patient need, in combination with low levels of dedicated research funding.

We are funding research that is advancing understanding of how to promote the best recovery from stroke. We have funded the following projects: