Action On Stroke month 2021: The impact of COVID-19 on stroke

Every year, the Stroke Association holds Action On Stroke Month to raise awareness of stroke and its impact on patients and their families, while also educating the general public on what to do in the event of someone suffering a stroke. This year, the Stroke Association want to highlight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on stroke and stroke research.

What is stroke?

In the UK, around 113,000 individuals a year suffer from stroke, and there are around 1 million stroke survivors.1 Stroke is one of the most prevalent neurological disorders, with almost 12 million cases each year globally, causing around 6 million deaths.2

Stroke can have a large impact not only on those who suffer from stroke, but also on the lives of family members.1 Those who suffer from stroke may experience:3

  • Paralysis (hemiplegia) or weakness (hemiparesis) on one side of the body

  • Speech and language problems

  • Depression

  • Numbness or pain in the hands and feet

A stroke occurs due to blood flow to the brain being cut off, or when a blood vessel bursts causing blood to spill into the spaces surrounding brain cells.3,4 Without adequate blood flow, the constant supply of oxygen and nutrients required by the brain cannot be provided and brain cells can die within minutes.4

A stroke can take the form of an acute stroke3 or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA):5

Acute stroke3 - Can be ischaemic (caused by a blocked blood vessel) or haemorrhagic (caused by bleeding in or around the brain)

      TIA5 - A transient stroke caused by a brief disruption in blood supply; the effects of a TIA generally persist for around 24 hours

          There are many risk factors that can increase the chance of a stroke, including older age, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.4

          The effects of COVID-19

          The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on research as well as on stroke services in the UK.6 In 2020, the Stroke Association published a report on the impact of COVID-19 from 2000 stroke survivors.6 Their findings on the impact on stroke research showed that the majority of research had stopped. Of projects funded by the Stroke Association, 3 in 4 had to be paused as a result of COVID-19.6

          The World Stroke Organisation reported that there had been a 38% loss in funding in the UK research sector from the Association of Medical Research Charities, and that in April 2020, 70% of all clinical trials in the UK were paused, with 54% remaining paused by June.7

          Regarding patient services, the survey found that:6

          • 30% of people who had suffered a stroke delayed seeking emergency medical attention
          • In April 2020, only 20% of stroke physicians reported no effect on their usual service
          • Roughly 50% of stroke survivors had experienced therapy or homecare visit appointments being cancelled or postponed
          • 69% of stroke survivors felt more anxious or depressed while in lockdown
          • 77% of carers have provided more care during lockdown, and 56% felt overwhelmed

          Survivors of stroke are considered to be at much greater risk for COVID-19 hospitalisation (32.4% vs 11.7%) and death (13.4% vs 3.6%) than the general population as, in general, they are of older age and are likely to have comorbid conditions associated with stroke.7,8 There are also studies indicating that COVID-19 may increase the risk of stroke, either acting as a risk factor or a direct pathophysiological mechanism causing stroke.7

          emotive recognises the importance of Action On Stroke month in raising awareness of stroke. The impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on stroke services and the effects that have been observed in survivors and families indicate the need for these services to continue.6 The importance or research has been shown to be of greater importance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to improve stroke services and understand the impact that COVID-19 can have on stroke survivors.

          For more information on our services, contact

          Action On Stroke Month May 2021: Save research. Rebuild lives.

          Find more information:


          1. King D, et al. Age Ageing. 2020;49(2):277–282.
          2. Deuschl G, et al. Lancet Public Health. 2020;5(10):e551–e567. 
          3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Stroke Information Page. Available at: (Accessed: May 2021)
          4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Stroke. Available at: (Accessed: May 2021)
          5. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Transient Ischemic Attack Information Page. Available at: (Accessed: May 2021)
          6. Stroke Association. Stroke recoveries at risk: How the Covid-19 pandemic has affected stroke survivors’ lives and recoveries. Available at: (Accessed: May 2021)
          7. Markus HS and Martins S. Int J Stroke. 2021;16(3):241–247. 
          8. Nalleballe K, et al. Cureus. 2020;12(9):e10231.

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