A stroke is a serious medical condition. It requires immediate medical attention to prevent complications, such as long-term disability and death.

Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease. It occurs when blood flow to the brain stops. When blood cannot reach the brain, the cells start to die off within minutes.

Left untreated, it can lead to permanent disability or death.

Treatment typically focuses on restoring blood flow to the brain. Once blood flow is restored, a person often undergoes physical or occupational therapy to help regain any lost function.

This article reviews a person’s outlook following a stroke, types of strokes, prevention, and more.

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A stroke is not always fatal. Even when it is not, stroke can lead to short- and long-term disability.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2021, stroke caused 1 in 6 deaths due to cardiovascular disease.

Across the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 3 minutes and 14 seconds, someone dies from a stroke. In 2021, about 41 people out of 100,000 died from a stroke.

The CDC considers stroke a leading cause of serious long-term disability in older adults.

Stroke may also cause a decrease in life expectancy. According to a 2022 population-wide study conducted in Australia and New Zealand, acute stroke is associated with a considerable loss in life expectancy.

Several factors may affect a person’s outcome after a stroke. The following factors can decrease survival odds or recovery from stroke:

  • Advanced age: Age is one of the most significant factors in a person’s outlook and recovery from a stroke. Many older survivors of stroke experience mild to severe disability.
  • Sex: Females may be more likely to experience disability and find it difficult to achieve full independence following a stroke than males.
  • Socioeconomic status: People from lower income households may lack healthcare insurance. They may find it more difficult to access aftercare services following a stroke.

Other factors that may affect a person’s outlook following a stroke but require further research include:

  • mistrust of the healthcare system
  • lack of disease awareness
  • post-stroke depression
  • location of the stroke
  • type of stroke
  • damage from the stroke
  • marital status
  • caregiver support

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. A third type, transient ischemic attack (TIA), is also known as a ministroke or warning stroke.


Ischemic is the most common type of stroke. It accounts for about 87% of all cases, according to the CDC.

An artery blockage in the brain is the underlying cause of ischemic stroke. This may be due to plaque buildup or a blood clot.

Another possible cause is chronic, long-term inflammation from an underlying autoimmune disorder. Inflammation may lead to blood vessel damage, resulting in reduced blood flow to the brain. However, this is still not well understood. More research is needed.


A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in or above the brain bursts, causing internal bleeding. Pressure builds up around the brain, damaging the cells.

There are two subtypes:

  • intracranial hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the skull
  • subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is bleeding between the brain and the surrounding membrane

Intracranial hemorrhage accounts for about 10% of all stroke cases, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Subarachnoid hemorrhage accounts for about 3% of all stroke cases.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

Transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a warning stroke or ministroke, occurs when blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked. The main difference is that the blockage breaks up before damage to the brain occurs.

A person treated for a TIA needs to follow up with a healthcare professional or specialist to start treatments to help prevent a future stroke.

A stroke during sleep can delay emergency treatment. This may increase the chances of death associated with stroke. However, data on this is not clear.

In a 2008 study, researchers found an association between increased risk of death, stroke, and sleep apnea. They found people with sleep apnea who had a stroke during sleep had a higher likelihood of death.

A study from 2011 found that people who had a stroke while asleep had worse short-term outcomes than those who had a stroke when awake. The likely reason is due to delay in treatment.

The signs of stroke often include a sudden onset of the following symptoms:

  • confusion
  • numbness in the arm, leg, or face, often on one side of the body
  • trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • severe headache
  • trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or poor coordination

A person should call 911 or emergency services immediately if they or a person they are with has symptoms of a stroke. Emergency service personnel can start to provide treatment and diagnosis on the way to the hospital, which can help improve outcomes.

The CDC recommends remembering FAST, which stands for:

  • Face: Weakness or numbness in the face is present if asked to smile.
  • Arms: When asked to raise arms above the head, one or both arms start to drift downward.
  • Speech: When asked to say something, a person slurs their words or has other changes in how they pronounce or say words.
  • Time: Call 911 immediately if the signs above occur.

A person can take steps to prevent a stroke or future stroke. Prevention can include medications, other therapies, and lifestyle changes.

Some prevention tips include the following:

  • Eat more whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
  • Limit or avoid processed foods, added sugars, high salt intake, and red meats.
  • Maintain a moderate weight.
  • Get regular exercise or physical activity.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol use.
  • Stop or avoid smoking.
  • Take medications as prescribed to treat any underlying conditions, including high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes.

The following section provides answers to frequently asked questions about stroke.

What are the chances of surviving a stroke?

In 2021, about 41 per every 100,000 people who had a stroke died from it. This works out to about one person dying from a stroke every 3 minutes and 14 seconds.

How long after a stroke can it be fatal?

Stroke can lead to early death and long-term disability.

According to a 2018 study, about 2 out of 3 people who have an ischemic stroke either die or need others for care within 5 years of the stroke.

For people who have a hemorrhagic stroke, 3 out of 4 die or need disability care within 5 years.

Researchers based these findings on information pulled from a Swedish database.

Can stroke cause sudden death?

According to a 2012 study, an interaction between cardiovascular and neurological processes can trigger sudden death in some people who have a stroke.

Many others will show signs and symptoms of stroke that people should not ignore. Loss of control of the face or arms and slurred speech can all indicate a person had a stroke. A person should call 911 immediately if this occurs.

Stroke can result in death, particularly if a person does not receive care quickly. People can learn about the potential signs of stroke, which can include facial drooping, weakness in the arm, and slurred speech.

A person should call 911 immediately if they notice someone having any signs of a stroke. The ambulance crew can start treatment and help diagnose the stroke on the way to the hospital, which can help the person get crucial, early care that can improve their outcome.