Each week as we turn on the television to listen to the news, the sudden death of someone in the public eye from a stroke, makes the headlines. But for each person in the public eye, there are many, many more who suffer with this dreadful, and often misunderstood condition.
By being aware of the warning signs of a stroke, we may be able to limit the damage done to our bodies by getting medical treatment as quickly as possible.
The simple truth is that as we get older, strokes are something that we fear, just as much as heart problems and cancer. A sudden stroke can pose a critical medical emergency so it is something that we need to look out for, particularly understanding the warning signs.
In the UK every year approximately 110,000 people are affected by strokes, the brain injuries of which, can leave adults with major disabilities.
Whilst we cannot always prevent strokes, we can be aware of the early warning signs so that we are able to get medical treatment quickly. The big problem with strokes is that they will damage brain tissue but if the attack is tackled rapidly, this can be reduced.
Signs of a stroke to look out for
If you or a family member or friend appear to be experiencing a stroke, always call 999 without delay and ask for an ambulance. These are some of the most common warning signs that a stroke is taking place:
- Weak feeling in limbs or hands
- Numbness down one side
- Problems with vision, particularly in just one eye
- Difficulty with speaking
- Unable to understand what someone is saying to you
- Severe headache
Stroke is one of those conditions that will worsen very quickly so never delay getting help because you are unsure of the symptoms. Warning signs of a stroke can come on very suddenly or can even begin the day before.
Worryingly, a recent survey showed that 97% of those over 50 did not know the warning signs of a stroke. For this very reason, those of us 50 and over should remember these signs and ensure that we act quickly and calmly should they occur.
The FAST check list
In order to make this a lot easier, the National Stroke Association has devised the FAST check list which acts as a memory jogger. If you fear that someone may be experiencing a stroke, ask yourself any of these questions and if the answer to just one is a ‘yes’ then get help immediately:
FACE – Has the side of the face drooped? Does it do so when the person smiles?
ARMS – Can the person lift both arms and does one tend to move downwards?
SPEECH – Can they speak clearly or is their voice slurred?
TIME – If just one of these symptoms is present, dial 999 or get to the hospital fast as the brain cells have already begun to die.
Sometimes strokes are referred to as transient ischemic attack (TIA) but either way, treatment is required urgently. If you or someone close has suffered from strokes previously, always have an action plan in place as to what to do if it happens again. If your local hospital has a specialist Stroke Department, then that should be your first port of call.
There are now many tests that can diagnose a stroke quickly so that blood circulation can be restored to the brain before too much damage occurs. Brain cell death that will result in disability can occur with just 60 minutes of the first symptom.
Doctors often use clot-dissolving drugs to prevent damage, but this has to be done within 3 hours of the initial signs. The faster treatment is administered, the greater the chance that disability will not occur and that the odds of survival will be increased.
For further help, advice and information, click on this link to the Stroke Association.
To find out how exercise can reduce your chance of suffering a stroke, click on this link to our earlier article.
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