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Few epidemiological studies concerning the incidence of stroke have been conducted in Taiwan. In an attempt to investigate this common disease, we studied the incidence of stroke in Taiwan in a prospective incidence study.A cohort of 8,562 stroke-free people were followed up for 4 years to observe new stroke occurrence. The methods of sampling the study population have been reported elsewhere. In addition to the help of local doctors, who reported the new stroke cases, we also sent public nurses to visit the study population annually to screen the new cases of stroke.There were 104 (61 men and 43 women) first-ever stroke cases identified by a neurologist in a period between October 1, 1986 and December 31, 1990. The average annual incidence rate of first-ever stroke for people aged 36 years or older in this study was 330 per 100,000. Incidence rate was higher in eastern Taiwan and in rural communities. Percentages of the major types of stroke were as follows: cerebral infarction, 71%; cerebral hemorrhage, 22%; subarachnoid hemorrhage, 1%; and unclassified, 6%. The significant risk factors for stroke were hypertension and intake of food with a high sodium content.The age-specific incidence rates in this study are higher than those reported from the United Kingdom and the United States. The rates are close to those in a report from Japan and a report from a city in mainland China at the same latitude. Cerebral hemorrhages are more common among people in Taiwan than among Occidental people.