Stroke occurs as the result of a sudden loss of blood supply to a part of the brain.

This can occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or is occluded. Cells in the affected region of the brain die because they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood, leading to the symptoms and disabilities of stroke patients. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in North America and the leading cause of disability. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 40-50,000 Canadians suffer from stroke each year and over 300,000 Canadians are currently living with the effects of stroke. Stroke costs the Canadian economy approximately $2.7 billion per year, and the average acute care cost associated with each stroke is approximately $27,500.

We now know that stroke is largely preventable if some of the risk factors can be recognized in time and controlled effectively. We also know that many of the brain cells in the regions of the brain affected by stroke do not die immediately after the loss of blood supply, but instead die over several hours to days following the stroke. With timely treatment there is hope that these cells can be saved.