During the first 30 days after a stroke, the case fatality is about 25% and the major cause of death is the index stroke and its sequelae. The most consistent predictor of 30-day mortality after stroke is stroke severity. Other predictors include increasing age, a history of previous stroke, cardiac failure, and a high blood glucose concentration and white blood cell count. Other less common, but important, causes of early mortality are recurrent ischaemic stroke and a coronary event. The risk of a recurrent cerebrovascular event is highest in the first month (4%) and year (12%) after a stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA), probably reflecting the presence of active, unstable atherosclerotic plaque. Thereafter, the risk of a recurrent cerebrovascular event falls to about 5% per year, similar to the risk of a coronary event. During years 1-5 after a TIA and ischaemic stroke, cardiovascular disease increasingly becomes the major cause of death, reflecting the generalized nature of atherothrombosis, the most common cause of the index stroke. The most robust predictor of death within 1-5 years after stroke is increasing age, closely followed by cardiac failure. Additional baseline predictors of longer-term mortality include a history of previous symptomatic atherothrombosis (TIA, ischaemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and early-onset ischaemic heart disease), risk factors for atherothrombosis (smoking), other heart diseases (cardiac failure, atrial fibrillation) and increasing stroke severity. Lacunar syndromes can be predictive of relative longevity. At 5 years after stroke, survival is about 40%, and about half of survivors are disabled and dependent. The most robust predictors of disability at 5 years after stroke are increasing age, stroke severity, and recurrent stroke. The most powerful predictor of early recurrent stroke (within 30 days after stroke) is an atherosclerotic ischaemic stroke caused by large-artery atherosclerosis with >50% stenosis, whereas the strongest predictor of stroke recurrence over 5 years is diabetes. Other predictors of recurrent stroke include increasing age, previous TIA, atrial fibrillation, high alcohol consumption, haemorrhagic index stroke, and hypertension at discharge. The clinical implication of these findings is that strategies for optimizing long-term outcome after TIA and stroke should be directed toward reducing the high risk of recurrent stroke and coronary events by removing/recanalizing the symptomatic atherosclerotic plaque, controlling the underlying causal vascular risk factors, and administering long-term, effective antiplatelet therapy. Copyright (C) 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel.