Every day in South Africa nearly 240 people will suffer a stroke, of which they will claim nearly 70 lives. Some people who survive a stroke will recover fully but many people will be left with lasting disabilities. Strokes not only affect the survivor’s ability to live a normal life, but can also have devastating consequences for their loved ones.

What is a stroke?

A healthy network of blood vessels is vital to the brain as it requires an uninterrupted supply of fresh blood filled with oxygen and nutrients. Blood is pumped from the heart to the brain by two large blood vessels called carotid arteries. As the carotid arteries reach the brain they divide into a fine network of very small blood vessels that supply blood to all the brain cells and the different parts of the brain. A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. One of the arteries carrying oxygen and nutrients to a part of the brain suddenly becomes blocked or bursts. This means that part of the brain does not receive the blood it needs, so the affected brain cells are damaged and some die. During a stroke parts of the brain may be permanently damaged causing the person to experience the symptoms of stroke. It is very similar to what happens in a heart attack, so is often referred to as a ‘brain attack’. Read more about the different types of strokes, the causes of a stroke, treatment, and rehabilitation. Most strokes can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle and treating conditions such as high blood pressure, or cholesterol and diabetes.