Stroke

Strokes

In this article we’ll look at the symptoms, causes and treatments of a stroke.

Strokes

A stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition. It happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Read our article below for more information on the symptoms, causes and treatments for a stroke.

If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Symptoms of a stroke

The emergency symptoms if a stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:

  • Face – the face may have drooped on one side and the person may not be able to smile.
  • Arms – the person may not be able to lift their arms and keep them there. There may be weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – the person’s speech may be slurred, they may not be able to understand what you’re saying to them or respond back to you, despite appearing awake.
  • Time – It’s time to dial 999 if you see any of these signs and symptoms.

What causes a stroke?

If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, the brain cells begin to die because the oxygen supply is cut off. This can lead to brain injury, disability and sometimes even death.

There are two main types of stroke:

Ischaemic – this is where blood supply is prevented because of a blood clot. Ischaemic strokes make up around 85% of all strokes.

Haemorrhagic – High blood pressure causes a weakened blood vessel in the brain to burst.

There is also a similar condition called a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). These are more commonly known as a ‘mini-stroke’. This is when blood supply is temporarily interrupted and can persist for a few minutes up to 24 hours. Mini strokes should still be treated urgently, as they are often a warning sign you may have a full stroke in the near future.

Certain conditions increase your risk of having a stroke include high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation), and diabetes. Strokes do not only affect adults, children can have them too. Around 400 children a year in the UK have a stroke [1].

How is a stroke treated?

The treatment you receive depends on the type of stroke you are having. They will also need to consider which part of the brain is affected and what caused it. Strokes are usually treated with medication. A range of medications will be used, including ones to dissolve and prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol levels.

In some cases, a procedure may be required to remove the blood clots. Surgery may also be required to treat any brain swelling and reduce the risk of further bleeding if this was the cause of your stroke.

Recovering from a stroke

People who survive a stroke are often left with long term issues caused by brain injury. Some people need a long period of rehabilitation to recover their independence. Many stroke victims may never fully recover and need ongoing support.

Alternative remedies/self-help

You can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke by eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise, not drinking more than 14 units a week and not smoking. If you have been diagnosed with a condition that increases your risk of having a stroke you should ensure you are managing it effectively. Ensure you take any medications you have been prescribed to lower high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

This is especially important if you have had a stroke or mini stroke in the past as your chances of having another stroke are greatly increased.

[1] https://www.stroke.org.uk/childhood-stroke
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