The facts are as dramatic as they are tragic:
· Every year in Britain, over 150,000 people have a stroke.
· It is the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer.
· Strokes are the largest cause of adult disability in the UK due to the brain damage caused by the condition.
West Midlands Ambulance Service Medical Director, Dr Andy Carson, says: “What is yet more concerning is the number of people who do not know how to recognise a stroke and aren’t even aware how at risk they are of this life changing condition.”
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. This can be caused either due to a blood clot in a blood vessel supplying the brain (80% of cases) or if a blood vessel bursts causing a bleed (20% of cases).
Strokes are a medical emergency and prompt treatment is essential because the sooner a person receives treatment, the less damage is likely to happen.
If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance. The main symptoms of a stroke to look our for can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.
· Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped
· Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness
· Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
· Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms People over 65 years of age are most at risk from having strokes, although 25% of strokes occur in people who are under 65. It is also possible for children to have strokes.
If you are south Asian, African or Caribbean, your risk of stroke is higher. This is partly because of a predisposition (a natural tendency) to developing diabetes and heart disease, which are two conditions that can cause strokes.
Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise and a poor diet are also risk factors for stroke. Conditions that affect the circulation of the blood, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, an irregular heartbeat and diabetes also increase your risk of having a stroke.
Dr Carson continued: “The good news is that for many patients, modern treatments can make a massive difference to not only the patient’s survival, but also their life going forward. However, it is vital that it diagnosed quickly which is why we would urge everyone to learn the FAST test.
“To reduce the risk of you having a stroke, we would urge people to adopt a ‘healthy lifestyle’. Eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking will dramatically reduce your risk of having a stroke. Lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels with medication also lowers the risk of stroke substantially.
“Our staff use the FAST test regularly; it is really simple. Isn’t it about time you learnt the process needed to help your loved one in their hour of need?”
For more information about Stroke, go to the NHS Choices website at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/Stroke and look out for the adverts on your television.