Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in Canada, and especially in Atlantic Canada, where we have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, smoking, and other risk factors for stroke. Stroke occurs when blood supply to an area of the brain is cut off by a clogged or ruptured blood vessel. Deprived of oxygen and nutrients, brain cells in the area die, with potentially devastating effects.

More than 50,000 Canadians have a stroke each year. Of these, one in five will die, one in five will survive relatively unscathed, and three in five will survive with significant long-term disabilities. These include mobility problems caused by muscle paralysis or spasticity in the lower and/or upper limbs. People with these problems may be unable to walk or perform the basic talks of daily living, let alone return to work. They often require personal care and practical assistance for the rest of their lives.

Like other long-term disabilities, stroke takes an enormous toll on the lives of individuals and their families, as well as on society and the economy as a whole. According to the Canadian Stroke Network, stroke costs this country’s health care system approximately $2.7 billion per year. This staggering figure does not include indirect costs, such as lost productivity.

Research is shedding light on new ways to minimize the impact of stroke–at the time it occurs, and in the years that follow. Advances in rehabilitative therapy are helping people regain function after stroke. Several Mobility Project members are involved in rehabilitation research to help stroke patients improve their recovery and quality of life.

The Canadian Stroke Network and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada are key players in Canada’s stroke strategy, a comprehensive effort to mitigate the impact of stroke in Canada.