Stroke Facts and Figures

Stroke Definition

Strokes represent a serious health concern in the United States today.  A stroke occurs when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted, resulting in the death of brain tissue.  This can happen in two different ways:

  • Ischemic strokes, which account for 87% of all cases of stroke, occur when blood flow through the brain’s arteries is restricted due to fatty deposits on the artery wall—a condition known as atherosclerosis. These deposits can lead to stroke either by enlarging to the point that they form a blood clot and clog off the vessel, or by trapping blood clots from other parts of the body.1 For more information, see Let’s Talk About Ischemic Strokes (PDF).
  • Hemorrhagic strokes, which account for about 13% of all cases of stroke, occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and compresses the surrounding brain tissue. The rupture is most often due to either a brain aneurysm (ballooning of the vessel), or to abnormal vessel formations that people are born with.1 For more information, see Let’s Talk About Hemorrhagic Strokes (PDF).

You may have also heard of Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes, which are brief strokes with symptoms that usually only last for a few minutes. These can be predictors of future strokes.

Stroke Signs & Symptoms

  • Face drooping
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in arm, leg, or face
  • Speech difficulty such as slurred speech
  • Sudden confusion of trouble understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

For more information, see Let’s Talk About Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs (PDF).

Source: North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics (Link)

Stroke Facts


  • About 795,000 Americans suffer from stroke each year, and 33 million people worldwide2,3
  • 1 in 4 strokes occurs in someone who has already had a stroke4
  • Strokes can occur at any age. However, they are more commonly suffered by older adults, African Americans, people with lower education levels, and people living in the Southeastern U.S.  The lifetime risk of first stroke among African Americans is almost double that of Caucasians.3
  • In North Carolina, there were 29, 599 hospital admissions in 2012. That means one stroke hospitalization every 20 minutes which resulted in $2.5 million in hospital charges for stroke each day.4


  • Stroke is the number five cause of death, killing nearly 129,000 Americans annually2
  • The stroke mortality is currently on the decline: from 2001 to 2011 the number of stroke deaths fell by 21%.3
  • The decrease in stroke mortality is attributed in part to better blood pressure and cholesterol control, better diabetes management, and the success of anti-smoking campaigns.3


  • Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability5
  • Stroke costs the United States approximately $34 billion per year5

Source: CDC DHDSP Interactive Atlas (Link)



  1. American Heart Association – American Stroke Association. Accessed August, 2015
  2. American Stroke Association: . Impact of Stroke. Accessed August, 2015
  3. Mozaffarian D, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2015 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. 2015; 131:e1-294
  4. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, State Center for Health Statistics. Inpatient Hospital Utilization and Charges by Principal Diagnosis and County of Residence, North Carolina, 2012.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Stroke Facts. Accessed August, 2015