Purpose: Earlier studies by our unit documented frequent disability in world leaders resulting from stroke but did not quantify the incidence of cerebrovascular accidents. We sought to identify the frequency and impact of strokes in world leaders.
Methods: Using various sources, we identified world leaders who had sustained strokes while in office from 1970 to 1999 and tabulated information on symptoms and subsequent ability to lead.
Results: Twenty leaders were identified who had sustained strokes during the study period, for an incidence of 0.444 strokes/100 leaders/year. Half of the affected leaders lost their political power within the year; most had persistent disabilities, which included motor, speech, cognitive, and emotional deficits.
Conclusion: Strokes in world leaders may be slightly less common than expected based on studies of Western populations of similar age, but they are often devastating to a political career. Nonetheless, loss of political power is not inevitable.