Stroke Fact Sheet

The Leading Cause of Disability in the United States

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and primary cause of long-term disability in the United States.

A stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when a brain artery ruptures or becomes blocked, cutting off vital supplies of blood and oxygen. Brain cells deprived of oxygen can die within minutes, resulting in a loss of physical and mental functions, such as speech, sight, sense of touch and thought processing. Damage often is permanent, as the body does not replace brain cells.

It is imperative that patients seek immediate medical treatment at the first sign of stroke by calling 911. Time is brain; for every minute the brain is deprived of oxygen, approximately 1.9 million brain cells die.1

Types of Stroke 2,6


  • Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when obstruction, like a blood clot, blocks blood flow to the brain. There are two types of obstruction:
    • Cerebral thrombosis, a blood clot (thrombus) forms in an blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain
    • Cerebral embolism, a piece of a blood clot that has formed at another location in the circulatory system, breaks off and is carried through the bloodstream to the brain, then becoming lodged in a blood vessel too small to let it pass.


  • Hemorrhagic strokes account for the remainder (13 percent) of all strokes. There are two types:
    • Subarachnoid hemorrhage, a blood vessel on the surface of the brain ruptures, causing bleeding into the space between the brain and skull
    • Intracerebral hemorrhage, an artery in the brain ruptures, causing bleeding into the surrounding brain tissue.