Monday, 3rd June, 2019

When stroke strikes, act F.A.S.T

May is Action On Stroke Month. This is an annual event arranged by the Stroke Association to raise awareness of the impact of a stroke and to educate the public on the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

Strokes strike every five minutes, so it’s crucial to be aware of how to recognise the signs of a stroke, and be aware of what you can do to help. 

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What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood flow is cut off to part of your brain. Like a heart attack, it may sometimes be called a ‘brain attack’. When this happens, there is damage to the brain cells in the affected area because they don’t get the oxygen and nutrition needed from your blood. As the brain controls many of our actions, this kind of damage may affect your speech or the way you think or move.

Stroke can occur as a result of a blockage from a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to your brain; this is an ischaemic stroke. It could also happen when a blood vessel bursts in the brain and causes bleeding and damage to the surrounding brain cells; known as a haemorrhagic stroke. There is another related condition called transient ischaemic attack (TIA) where the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted, also called a mini-stroke.

How to recognise the symptoms

The sooner someone receives treatment for stroke, the less damage is likely to happen. If you know what to look out for, you can call for help as soon as you spot the warning signs. The best way to remember the main symptoms is the FAST test:

Face may have dropped on one side, or their mouth or eye - they may not be able to smile

Arms may not stay up when they try to lift them

Speech may be slurred and they may not be able to understand what you are saying

Time to call 999 immediately if you spot any of these signs

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The FAST test helps you to spot the most common symptoms, however, there are others that should also be taken seriously:

- Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body

- Difficulty speaking clearly or forming words/sentences

- Sudden blurry vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes

- Sudden confusion, dizziness, severe headache or a sudden fall

Reducing the risk and preventing further strokes

Some people may be at higher risk of having a stroke. Our arteries become narrow and harden as we age so they are more likely to get blocked. Other conditions or lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking may speed up this process leading to a higher risk of having a stroke. Having already had a stroke also increases the risk of another stroke.

There are things you can do to help prevent further strokes or reduce the risk of having one in the first place. This includes leading a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking and staying within the recommended units for alcohol intake.

After having a stroke, you will usually be prescribed medication to help improve symptoms that increase your risk. You may already be taking medication that manages a condition that increases your risk of stroke. This may include medication to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, or blood thinners to reduce your risk of blood clots.

It’s important to manage these conditions effectively, including taking your medication regularly. Using Echo can help you keep track of your medication, as well as reminding you when to take it. Our pharmacists are also on hand to help with advice on how to take your medication correctly.

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Life after stroke

The effects of a stroke on one person’s life may be different from others. For some people, recovery may be fairly quick, while others may need more ongoing support with adjusting to the long-term effects of the stroke. 

There's lots of advice and support available for stroke recovery, for both the person affected and for carers. You can find out more about this from The NHS and Stroke Association.

Got a question? We'd love to hear from you. Our pharmacy team are always here to help when you need it. You can use the in-app messenger to get in touch, or why not drop us a direct message on Twitter?