It's Your Health
This article was produced in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada.
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Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. The risk of stroke increases with age, but in many cases lifestyle changes can decrease your chances of having a stroke.
Most strokes occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain, interrupting the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain cells in the area. The breaking of a blood vessel in the brain and the resulting bleeding can also cause a stroke. In both types of stroke, brain cells may die, causing the parts of the body they control to stop functioning.
Between 40,000 and 50,000 Canadians are hospitalized each year for strokes, and about 15,000 of these are fatal. In 2003, about 272,000 Canadians 12 years of age and older were living with the effects of having a stroke.
Although strokes can occur in children, the risk of stroke increases with age. After age 55 your risk of stroke doubles every 10 years. Males have a slightly higher prevalence of living with the effects of having a stroke than females in all age groups, in total 51% males, 49% females. However, 59% of stroke deaths occur in women, likely because women live longer, and men are more likely to die from other causes.
A stroke survivor has a 20% chance of having another stroke within two years.
The main warning signs of a stroke are:
If you experience any of these signs, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately! There is now medication that, if administered in the early stages of a stroke, can help minimize the effects.
Although the risk of stroke increases with age, the risk also rises if you:
Strokes affect people in different ways, depending on the type of stroke, the area of the brain which is affected and the size of the damaged area.
The common effects of a stroke include:
Rehabilitation is an important part of recovery from a stroke and should begin as soon as possible. While a stroke usually leaves after-effects, in many cases the brain can learn to compensate for the damaged area.
Lifestyle changes can increase your chances of avoiding a stroke.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is committed to promoting and protecting the health of Canadians through leadership, partnership, innovation and action in public health. It promotes stroke awareness as part of this overall commitment. PHAC works with stakeholders at all levels to provide Canadian and international leadership in prevention and control of chronic diseases, including stroke, through integrated policy and program development, surveillance, and knowledge development and dissemination.
PHAC's Division of Aging and Seniors is specifically dedicated to seniors' health promotion. It offers seniors practical information on all types of conditions that may arise or worsen with age, including stroke.
For more information on stroke, go to:
For additional articles on health and safety issues go to the It's Your Health Web site.
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*.
©Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada,
represented by the Minister of Health, 2006
Original: June 2006