What is a stroke?
A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition caused when the blood supply to your brain is suddenly cut off or reduced. As a result, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and other nutrients in the blood and this quickly causes damage or death to cells in affected parts of the brain.
There are two types of stroke:
- Ischaemic – where a blood clot blocks a main artery in the brain, accounting for 85% of all cases.
- Haemorrhagic – where a weakened artery in the brain bursts.There is also a similar condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) where the blood supply to the brain is temporarily reduced. This is referred to as a mini stroke and often lasts for only a few minutes or hours.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word F.A.S.T:
Face. Can they smile? Has their face fallen on one side?
Arms. Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech. Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?
Time. Time to call 999 if you see any one of these signs.
Reducing your risk
Certain conditions increase the risk of having a stroke, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of having a stroke, such as exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, giving up smoking and reducing alcohol consumption.
If you have had a stroke or a mini stroke you are more likely to have another, so you need to speak with your GP about how best to reduce your future risk
Treatment for a stroke
People who have survived a stroke are often left with long-term problems caused by damage to the brain. Common effects include:
- Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Communication difficulties
- Memory difficulties
- Problems with vision
Strokes are usually treated with medication. This can include medications to control cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. In other cases, surgery may be required to remove blood clots or reduce brain swelling.
Some people need a long period of rehabilitation before they can recover. However, many people never recover fully and will need care and support to live with the effects of a stroke.
Help and support
The long term effects of a stroke vary from person to person. A range of emotions - anger, anxiety and frustration – are common and it is important to speak to your GP if you are finding things difficult.
The Stroke Association
The Stroke Association provide information, advice and support to people affected by stroke.
Helpline: 0303 3033 100 or visit www.stroke.org.uk
You can find information about stroke – risk factors, symptoms and treatment in the Health A-Z section: www.nhs.uk/pages/home
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland provide information, advice and support to people affected by chest, heart and stroke illness.
Advice line: 0808 801 0899 or visit www.chss.org.uk