Overview of Stroke

Cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or Stroke is a significant public health problem affecting the world population. Annually, stroke affects 15 million people worldwide, of which 5 million die and a further 10 million live with some forms of disabilities (Mackay 2004).

The incidence of stroke increases from year to year. In the year 2000, the incidence of first-ever stroke was 3.8 million worldwide (World Health Organisation, WHO 2004).  The reported stroke incidence was 9 million in the year 2004 (WHO 2008), showing a dramatic increase by almost two-folds.  The incidence of stroke is expected to further increase in the future due to various reasons, the most important being ageing of the world population.  Globally the population of older persons is growing at a rate of 2.6 per cent per year (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2007). In 2000, the population aged 60 years or over numbered 600 million, tripled the number present in 1950.  In 2006, the number of older persons had surpassed 700 million, and by 2050, 2 billion older persons are projected to be alive (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2007). As it is generally accepted that stroke is a disease of older people (Stokes 2004), increase in the population of ageing denotes parallel trend in the incidence of stroke. At the same time, there is an escalation of lifestyle diseases, such as Ischaemic heart disease, diabetes mellitus and obesity as a result of urbanization and industrialization and change in diet among people in many developed and some developing countries (WHO 2008).  These diseases are established risk factors for stroke, thus may contribute to further increase in the occurrence of stroke worldwide.