Posted 3 May 2020

Facts and statistics for stroke in the UK

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a medical occurrence in the brain and the effects can be devastating to a person. Essentially the blood flow to your brain is obstructed because of a blood clot or broken blood vessel. Similarly to a heart attack, the lack of oxygen-rich blood can cause the tissue to die.

When brain cells start dying because of loss of blood flowing, parts of the brain cause certain areas of the body to change. The most common symptoms which are also shown on television include, loss of speech, change in facial expression, and inability to move. These adverts shown on TV are to help raise awareness for spotting early symptoms to help reduce further damage.

History of strokes and why is it called a stroke?

Medical experts and professionals are now aware of the causes of a stroke which wasn’t always the case. A stroke was first identified over 2,400 years ago by a gentleman called Hippocrates (also known as ‘the father of medicine’). Originally a stroke was called ‘apoplexy’ which is Greek meaning “struck down by violence”.

In the 1600s a doctor called Jacob Wepfer then made a discovery which was that disruptions in the blood supply to the brain caused deaths from apoplexy. In a proportion of these cases, there were high levels of bleeding in the brain, whereas other arteries were blocked.

Decades later, medical sciences made further developments regarding the causes, treatment, and symptoms of apoplexy. One of the major advances was dividing apoplexy into various categories based on the causes. Following this, apoplexy then became known as a stroke and cerebrovascular accident (CVA).

What are the types of Stroke?

It is now known that there are three different types of strokes which have different causes called:

  • Ischaemic stroke is where there is a cutting off of blood supply to the brain due to a blockage. This is the most common variation accounting for approximately 85% of cases
  • A haemorrhagic stroke will be caused by bleeding around the brain or in the brain
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is also known as a ‘mini-stroke’ because the symptoms are similar but don’t last as long. The reason for this is because the blockage is only temporary.

What are the signs and symptoms of having a stroke?

You might have seen adverts on TV about what to do if someone is having a stroke and how to spot the signs. The reason for this is so people can react quickly to reduce long-lasting damage. Adverts by major stroke charities and associations created ‘FAST’ which stands for:

  • FACE – one of the most visible signs of someone experiencing a stroke is facial changes. This includes the face dropping on one side, unable to smile, and mouth or eyes dropping
  • ARMS – if someone is having a stroke then they will be unable to lift both arms and keep them elevated
  • SPEECH – a person having a stroke will have slurred or incoherent speech so will be very difficult to understand. The person may not even be able to speak at all in some cases as well as find it difficult to understand you
  • TIME – Finally it’s time to contact the emergency services so call 999

What causes someone to have a stroke?

The organs in the body need two things to survive which are oxygen and nutrients that are provided by blood. The brain is one of the most important organs and if blood is restricted or stopped then it causes cells to die. This can ultimately cause brain injury, long term disability, or even death.

The two main causes for someone having a stroke are:

  • Blood supply stopping which is due to a blood clot
  • Weakened blood vessels that supply blood to the brain burst

The other type of stroke which is known as a TIA (transient ischemic attack) is a temporary blockage. This is commonly known as a mini-stroke because of the shorter period of time that symptoms last.

Someone who has had a TIA should seek immediate medical attention as this can be a warning. People who have had a mini-stroke will be at a higher risk of having a full stroke in the future.

There are also other conditions which will increase the risk of having a stroke, these include:

  • Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heartbeats)
  • Diabetes (Type 2 mostly)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Raised cholesterol

Is it possible to recover after having a stroke?

Every stroke is different and it affects people in different ways, which can vary from a minor attack to severe.

It is possible for someone to experience a stroke and recover to a reasonably good level. A minor stroke can even be more or less undetectable with very minor symptoms that only last for a short period of time.

Severe strokes can clearly cause more damage which can be long-lasting or in some cases lead to death. Roughly 1 in every 8 stroke patients will not survive having a stroke and will pass away within 30 days.

Stroke statistics (UK)

According to the recent 2018 ‘state of the nation’ report produced by the leading Stroke charity, The Stroke Association:

  • Over 100,000 strokes per year (1 every 5 minutes)
  • 1.2 million survivors in the UK (stroke patients)
  • World wide someone has a stroke every 2 seconds
  • Stroke is currently the 4th biggest killer in the UK
  • Over 400 children have a stroke per year
  • 1 in 3 stroke survivors get depression
  • Approximately 65% of stroke survivors will have a disability
  • People under 65 are 2 to 3 times more likely to be out of employment for eight years after having a stroke
  • Stroke costs approximately £26 billion each year

*Stroke Association ‘State of the Nation’ report 2018 (references)

What potential issues are there for someone who’s had a stroke needing life insurance?

Even though cover is generally available for someone who’s had a stroke, it’s important to know everything. As a company, we don’t like to focus on the negatives but there are a few things to be aware of. Some of the possible issues are:

  • Multiple strokes can cause insurance underwriters to be more cautious when considering your application. There are many instances where a person can suffer multiple attacks which is classed as higher risk
  • Reason for the stroke can play a part in whether or not you would be restricted in terms of your options for cover in the future
  • Further medical conditionsmay also have an impact on your application for life insurance due to the related risks. There are certain conditions which may be classed as higher risk such as heart attack, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease

We regularly speak to customer who have had problems applying for cover in the past, especially with conditions like stroke. It’s not the end of the road and we’re very often able to get cover in this situation.

Stroke awareness events

World Stroke Day is a global event usually held towards the end of October to help raise awareness through all of the leading global stroke organisations.

Stroke Awareness Month is an event held in the UK in May which is run by the charity, The Stroke Association.

Stroke charities and support for people after a stroke (UK)

Stroke Association
Website: https://www.stroke.org.uk/
Helpline: 0303 3033 100
Address: Life After Stroke Centre, Church Lane, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, B61 8RA

Different Strokes
Website: https://differentstrokes.co.uk/
Helpline: 0345 1307172
Address: 9 Canon Harnett Court, Wolverton Mill, Milton Keynes, MK12 5NF

Headway (The Brain Injury Association)
Website: https://www.headway.org.uk/
Helpline: 0808 800 2244
Address: Bradbury House, 190 Bagnall Road, Old Basford, Nottingham, NG6 8SF

NHS Choices (Stroke)
Website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/

If you’ve had a stroke and need help or information about life insurance or travel insurance then please call us on 01244 732895. We’re here to help and we’ve helped thousands of people like you over the past 20 years.

References:
https://www.stroke.org.uk/sites/default/files/state_of_the_nation_2018.pdf

Daniel Sharpe-Szunko