In Canada, a stroke occurs every ten minutes. Each year, approximately 50,000 Canadians suffer a ‘brain attack’ that will lead to death or serious disability. Many stroke survivors face physical and mental challenges that greatly affect their quality of life. As many as 300,000 survivors live with the knowledge they are at risk for a subsequent attack.
While stroke can be devastating for the patient, its impact does not end there. The condition also has an enormous effect on the patient’s family. Most patients will need help to perform basic daily functions, such as dressing and personal hygiene. For the primary caregiver, sudden change in lifestyle and a sense of isolation can cause depression and anxiety. One year after a stroke in their family member, 50 per cent of caregivers develop an emotional illness. As fewer than 50 per cent of stroke patients return to work, families carry the additional burden of lost income.
In addition to its social effects, stroke drains the Canadian economy – the cost is estimated at $2.7 billion annually. Direct costs include hospital care, drugs, physician care expenditures and research. But there are many indirect costs as well, such as lost productivity due to mortality and long- or short-term disability. Our efforts to treat stroke have not always been cost-effective, and until now the approach to research and treatment has been fragmented.
A stroke is a brain attack. It occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or when a blood vessel ruptures. Cells in and around the stroke site begin to die and part of the brain stops working. Basic functions, such as communicating, walking, thinking, and personality, may be changed.
What is a Stroke?
Stroke is the LEADING cause of adult disability in Canada and third leading cause of death.
What are the symptoms?
Stroke symptoms include sudden:
- Numbness / weakness
- Confusion / impaired speech
- Loss of vision
- Dizziness / loss of balance
- Severe headache
What do I do if I experience these symptoms?
Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.
Being able to recognize a stroke is the first key to survival.
It is essential that the onset of stroke be treated immediately. New medications and clot-busting drugs, if administered quickly, can reverse the damage of stroke within the first three hours of an attack.
One hour could make the difference of a lifetime.
Can I prevent a stroke?
Yes, stroke is the most preventable and prevalent neurological disease. Risk factors of stroke include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle and a previous history of stroke. Visit your family doctor to assess your risk of stroke and to establish a prevention plan. Ask your doctor:
- What are my risk factors for stroke, and what can I do to lower my risk?
- What is my blood pressure?
- What is my cholesterol level?
- Should I lose weight?
- Should I start an exercise program?
- What resources are available? Is there a dedicated stroke unit in my community hospital?
Risk-assessment tools are also available on the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada. Stroke affects men, women and children of all ages. Education is the first step towards prevention.
Top 10 facts and figures on stroke
- Stroke is the number one leading cause of neurological disability in Canadian adults, and the third leading cause of death.
- Every year, 50,000 Canadians suffer a stroke – that’s equivalent to one every 10 minutes.
- Roughly 300,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke.
- High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke. A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 or less. Ways to reduce blood pressure include eating a healthy low-sodium diet and maintaining a healthy weight.
- Every year, patients with stroke spend more than 639,000 days in Canadian hospitals, and 4.5 million days in residential care facilities.
- Stroke survivors have a 20% chance of suffering a second stroke within two years of the initial one, which is why it is so important to control stroke risk factors.
- 80% of people who have had a stroke report restrictions to their daily activities.
- Half the people living with stroke do not have a meaningful activity to return home to.
- Canada spends about $2.5 billion annually on stroke-related expenses, including research, hospital care, and lost productivity due to disability.
- “Studies suggest that if everyone with high blood pressure kept their blood pressure in a healthy range, the number of strokes each year would drop by 35-40%.” – Dr. Mike Sharma, Deputy Director of the Canadian Stroke Network