Strokes are exceedingly common in older adults and yet, very few people actually understand what a stroke actually is. A stroke is described as a ‘brain attack’ and it occurs when the blood supply to an area of the brain is cut off. Blood carries oxygen and essential nutrients around your body, including to your brain, and when this supply is cut off, brain cells can become damaged or can die.
A stroke can impact how your mind and body work, impacting both your physical and mental health. There’s a common misconception that strokes only affect seniors when that isn’t the case - strokes are more likely in older people as our arteries narrow as we age and can get blocked more easily but a younger person’s arteries can still get blocked.
Of course, not all strokes are caused by blockages - there are different kinds of strokes. The three most common types of strokes are an ischaemic stroke, haemorrhagic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA). Strokes caused by blockages are ischaemic strokes, while strokes caused by bleeding around the brain are haemorrhagic strokes, and a TIA is a mini-stroke where the symptoms only last for a short amount of time as the blockage that has caused the stroke is temporary.
There’s a lot more to strokes than people realise, which is why we have put together this handy guide to 12 facts about strokes that everyone should know. After all, the key to effectively dealing with any health problem is building awareness.
1. A stroke occurs 152,000 times a year in the UK; that equates to one stroke occurring every three minutes and 27 seconds. Across the globe, first-time strokes occur 17 million times a year; that’s one stroke every two seconds.
2. In the UK there are over 1.2 million stroke survivors and three out of ten stroke survivors will have a second stroke.
3. One out of every eight strokes are fatal within 30 days of the stroke occurring, while one in four strokes are fatal within a year. In the UK, stroke is the fourth single largest cause of death and the second largest cause in the world. Each year, stroke kills double the number of women as breast cancer and far more men than prostate and testicular cancer combined.
4. By 75-years-old, one in five women and one in six men will have had a stroke. Race is a factor according to the statistics, as when it comes to strokes, black people being twice as likely to suffer from a stroke as white people, and black and Asian people have strokes at a younger age than white people.
5. Stroke is one of the most common causes of disability in the UK with half of all stroke survivors ending up with a disability as a result of suffering a stroke. Over one-third of stroke survivors in the UK is dependant on others, with one in five stroke survivors being cared for by friends and family.
6. Each year, per cancer patient in the UK, £241 is spent on research, whereas just £48 per stroke patient in the UK is spent each year. Stroke research is lacking, which means that more awareness and action is required.
7. Statistics show that around 80% of strokes are preventable with health and lifestyle changes. The key factors when reducing stroke risk are weight, smoker status, alcohol consumption, exercise amount, diabetes, and blood pressure. The healthier your body, the less likely a stroke is to occur.
8. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Although strokes are more likely to impact seniors, children, teenagers and young adults also suffer from them.
9. Recovering from a stroke is a lifelong process - recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Ten percent of stroke victims make a full recovery, while 25% survive with minor problems. The key to making a good recovery from a stroke is time - the faster you act when a stroke occurs, the faster you can restore blood to the affected part of the brain, and the less impairments there should be.
10. Genetics can increase your risk of having a stroke, with people who have close relatives who have had strokes being far more likely to also have a stroke at some point in their lives.
11. Mini-strokes or TIAs are warning signs that a more serious stroke could occur and so, should always be taken seriously.
12. The symptoms of strokes can vary, depending on what area of the brain is damaged. However, common signs are headaches, dizziness, numbness, slurred speech, seizures, irregular breathing, and paralysis of an area of the body are all common symptoms. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a warning sign that you may need to see a doctor immediately or call an ambulance for emergency help.
If you want to learn more about strokes or require support, the UK Stroke Association should be able to help.