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Act FAST when identifying a stroke

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Strokes are among some of the most serious and potentially life-threatening medical issues. It’s vital to known the signs and get medical assistance as soon as possible when somebody is experiencing a stroke.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is restricted or cut off. This means the brain cells are at risk of being damaged or dying, which can lead to life-changing brain injury or even death in the most severe cases.

When a person is having a stroke, time is of the essence to prevent prolonged damage to the brain. The sooner the patient receives treatment the better. If you suspect that somebody is having a stroke, it’s important to act right away by calling 999 and requesting an ambulance.

However, it may not always be immediately apparent that somebody is having a stroke. Here we focus on identifying the signs of a stroke, how they are treated and what you and your loved ones can do to minimise your risk of having one.

Noticing the signs of a stroke

Remembering the key symptoms is useful to quickly identify a potential stroke. That’s why the NHS has issued helpful guidance to notice the signs as early as possible. To do this, you need to remember to act “FAST”:

F – Face: Has the person’s face dropped on one side or are they unable to move their facial muscles? If their mouth or eye appears to have drooped, ask them if they can smile for you.

A – Arms: Are they able to lift or move their arms? A stroke can cause weakness or numbness in one arm – usually on the same side their face has dropped.

S – Speech: Can the person speak clearly? Their speech may be slurred or garbled, or they may not be able to speak at all. Someone having a stroke may also find it difficult to understand you.

T – Time: It’s time to call 999 if you notice any of the above signs. Act quickly once you notice any of these symptoms in a person’s face, arms or speech. Inform the operator you suspect the patient is experiencing a stroke and request an ambulance urgently.

Treatment and recovery

Depending on the type of stroke experienced and the effects on the brain, treatments may vary. In most cases, strokes are typically treated with medication that may reduce blood pressure, dissolve blood clots and lower cholesterol levels.

Sometimes, however, surgical procedures may be necessary to remove clots, treat brain swelling and reduce the risk of further bleeding around the brain. The cause of a stroke and the parts of the brain affected will need to be assessed before the appropriate treatment can be identified and given.

Recovering from a stroke can be quite a long and difficult process. Strokes affect people in different ways, but in many cases the effects can be long-term and require lengthy rehabilitation. Even then, some people may never fully recover and may rely on regular assistance going forward.

Preventing strokes

Virtually anybody can have a stroke without warning. However, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle can help you and your loved ones to avoid being affected by a stroke in the future.

Many strokes are the caused by blood clots restricting the flow of blood through arteries. By keeping blood pressure and cholesterol low, you can greatly reduce your risk. The best way to do this is by exercising regularly and sticking to a healthy diet.

Try to reduce the amount of salt in your diet, steer clear of fatty and processed foods and avoid drinking too much alcohol. If you’re a smoker, your risk of having a stroke increases as smoking narrows the arteries making circulatory issues more likely. Cutting out the cigarettes can therefore make a big difference to your health.