By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Stroke was the term used for apoplectic seizures from as early on as 1599. Johann Jacob Wepfer in his 1658 book called "Apoplexia," described the cause of apoplexy as bleeding in the brain.
Stroke is a medical emergency that commonly causes death and disability all over the world. In the Western world, for example, stroke is the second common cause of death after heart disease and is a bigger killer than cancer worldwide.
There are some races and ethnic origins that are more prone to stroke than others. This includes those of Asian, African or Caribbean origin. Genetic factors and lifestyle factors may also play a role in the causation of stroke.
Age has an influence on the risk for stroke. After the age of 30 years, the risk of stroke rises steeply globally. Ninety-five percent of all strokes occur in people aged over 65 years. The risk of dying due to stroke also rises with age. Similarly the chance of recovering fully from paralysis and disability caused by stroke also diminish with age. Therefore, the chance of recovering fully from paralysis and disability is very low in aged individuals who have a stroke.
Males are more at risk of stroke than females. However, with the ever increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and smoking habits among men and women, the numbers of women getting stroke is closing in on that of males. In 1999, stroke accounted for over 56,000 deaths in England and Wales, representing 11% of all deaths. Strokes occur at an annual incidence of 110,000 and transient ischemic attack or TIA occurs in 20,000 people each year.
In the United States, stroke is the third leading cause of death and it kills 160,000 Americans every year. The incidence of new or recurrent strokes each year is around 750,000 and over four million are living with the residual effects of stroke that includes paralysis and disability.
According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke each year. Of these, nearly 5 million die and another 5 million are left permanently disabled.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jan 16, 2014