Stroke is a disease with impacts ranging from death and disability, to reduced health-related quality of life and depression. To truly understand the burden of this disease we must investigate not only the mortality and prevalence of stroke, but also its incidence within populations. Stroke mortality and incidence declined rapidly during the 1980s and early 1990s; however, this trend appears to have slowed in more recent times. Despite many studies being conducted in Europe, and Australasia, there is a lack of reliable data from developing regions such as Asia and Africa. There are indications that although the mortality rate of stroke in such regions may be less than in developed countries, the simple fact that the populations are large means that the burden of stroke is considerable. Furthermore, as a result of epidemiological transition and rapid urbanization and industrialization many developing regions are exhibiting increased life expectancy, as well as changes in diet and other risk behaviors, such as smoking. This is contributing to a looming epidemic of stroke in these regions, as greater proportions of the population are now at risk of stroke. Fortunately, stroke is largely a preventable disease. The major risk factor for stroke, hypertension, can be controlled using both population-wide approaches, such as changes in the salt content of processed foods, and high-risk individual approaches, such as use of antihypertensive medications. Implementation of effective primary and secondary prevention strategies is likely to have an enormous benefit in reducing the burden of stroke, particularly in developing regions.