Stroke occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is suddenly disrupted. Blood is carried to the brain by blood vessels called arteries. Blood may stop moving through an artery because the artery is blocked by a blood clot or plaque, or because the artery breaks or bursts. A stroke can occur in two main ways: ischaemic stroke (blocked artery), or haemorrhagic stroke (bleed in the brain).

When blood is stopped, the brain cannot get the oxygen it needs, brain cells in the area die and the brain can become permanently damaged. Brain cells usually die within an hour from the beginning of the stroke but can survive, at times, up to a few hours after the stroke starts. Areas of brain where the blood supply is reduced but not completely cut off are areas that can survive for some hours. These cells are in a state of shock and can either recover or die depending on what happens in the minutes and hours that follow. Without prompt medical treatment, this area of brain cells will also die.

Stroke is Australia's second single greatest killer after coronary heart disease and a leading cause of disability. In 2009, Australians will suffer around 60,000 new and recurrent strokes - that's one stroke every 10 minutes. One in five people having a first-ever stroke die within one month and one in three die within a year. Stroke kills more women than breast cancer. Close to 20 per cent of all strokes occur to people under 55 years old. Strokes cost Australia an estimated $2.14 billion a year.

Information courtesy of the National Stroke Foundation.

This disease is being researched in the following projects:

Research Projects