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Key Facts About Stroke

What is a Stroke?

Strokes are caused by blood clots causing a lack of circulation to areas within the brain and death of cells; or leakage of blood from damaged blood vessels causing local destruction of brain cells. The majority of strokes are caused by clots. Up to 30% of people who have a stroke die within a month (DH 2008). Of those who have a stroke, nationally 25% are under the age of 65 years (DH 2008).
Stroke is a major health problem for the UK and is the third biggest killer each year with 11% of deaths attributed to stroke. It is the single largest cause of disability in the UK yet it has not traditionally had a high profile.

Strokes can usually be successfully treated and also prevented. 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.

Who is Most at Risk?

Risk factors include: Being over 65, having diabetes and or heart disease, an unhealthy lifestyle (for example smoking, being overweight or not exercising), having a condition which affects circulation of the blood, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation.

It is important for everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke. If you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group being aware of the symptoms is even more important.

Symptoms – FAST

The main stroke symptoms 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 drooped

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

Symptoms in the FAST test identify about nine out of 10 strokes.

What to do if you think someone is having a Stroke?

If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Even if the symptoms of a stroke disappear while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive, you or the person having the stroke should still go to hospital for an assessment. Symptoms that disappear may mean you have had a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or a mini stroke and you could be at risk of having a full stroke at a later stage. If you have had a TIA or a mini-stroke you will need treatment to help prevent you from having another TIA or a full stroke. After an initial assessment, you may need to be admitted to hospital to receive a more in-depth assessment and, if necessary, for specialist treatment to begin.