In their weekly Health Matters column, members of the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group discuss strokes...
NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group is supporting Stroke Awareness Month by encouraging residents to adopt a healthy lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking as these can significantly reduce the risk of having a stroke.
A stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Strokes are a medical emergency and urgent treatment is essential because the sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.
The main symptoms of stroke 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 both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
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.
In the UK, strokes are a major health problem. Every year, around 110,000 people have a stroke in England and it is the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. The brain injuries caused by strokes are a major cause of adult disability in the UK. Older people are most at risk of having strokes, although they can happen at any age – including in children. If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.
There are two main causes of strokes:
Ischaemic – where the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot (this accounts for 85% of all cases);
Haemorrhagic – where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.
There is also a related condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing a “mini-stroke” often lasting between 30 minutes and several hours. TIAs should be treated seriously as they are often a warning sign that you are at risk of having a full stroke in the near future.
More information about the signs, symptoms and treatment of strokes can be found by visiting www.nhs.uk or the Stroke Association on www.stroke.org.uk