What is a stroke?
“A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is cut off by a blood clot or a burst artery, depriving it of oxygen. Without oxygen, brain cells start to die immediately,” Professor Campbell said.
“When a stroke strikes the brain, it happens in an instant. The faster stroke is treated, the better the chance of a good outcome no matter how old you are,” he said.
What are the risk factors of a stroke?
A stroke could happen at any given time and plenty of causes can be linked to why a person has a stroke. In fact, more than 80 per cent of strokes are preventable, which means the majority are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, so eating too much of the wrong foods and a lack of exercise.
“Most strokes can be prevented by managing blood pressure and cholesterol and sticking to a healthy diet, avoiding sugary drinks, cutting salt intake, exercising regularly, only drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking,” said Professor Campbell.
“There are a number of risk factors for stroke,” he added. “These include genetic factors, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and diabetes.”
Strokes in younger people tend to be based on a more diverse range of causes. “In younger people there are also a range of different causes such as a tear in the wall of an artery causing a clot to form, structural heart defects that predispose to clot formation and abnormal blood vessels in the brain (e.g. arteriovenous malformations) that can bleed,” he said.
What are the odds of a full recovery?
While a stroke can cause death or disability, many people are able to make a good recovery. The faster stroke is treated, the better the chance of a good outcome. Time saved equals brain saved.
Every stroke is different depending on what part of the brain the stroke attacks and how severe it is. But what is common, is the devastation it can cause the survivor, their carer and family.
Next, see five common ways to tell that a stroke is about to happen to someone and what you could do to help them:
Warning sign 1: Trouble Speaking Or Slurred Speech
A stroke can affect the way a person speaks because they’ve lost control over certain muscles in their bodies. Stroke sufferers are usually unable to repeat proper sentences because their brain is unable to process such messages.
If you suspect that someone might be having a stroke, attempt to get them to repeat a simple sentence after you. Should all else fail, call an ambulance immediately.
Another thing you can do is try to get the individual to smile and if the corner of the person’s mouth tends to droop, it could be a sign of an oncoming stroke.
Warning sign 2: Sudden Dizziness
With oxygen cut off from certain parts of the brain, those suffering from either a major or minor stroke tend to get dizzy and feel like they’ve lost their balance.
Warning sign 3: Sudden Numbness in Body
Sudden numbness and weakness of the either the face, arms or other parts of the body (particularly down one side of the body) are sure signs of stroke. If uncertain, try to get the person to raise either of their arms and see which part they have difficulty raising.
Immediately call the ambulance and have them know the affected area too.
Warning sign 4: Sudden Bad Headaches
Constant or frequent headaches could be a sign of stroke and it’s important to identify if they could lead to more serious things.
Warning sign 5: Sudden Vision Problems
Blurred vision, rapid involuntary eye movement or temporary loss of vision in one or both eyes are also key warning signs. This is because a stroke may affect the part of a person’s brain linked to sight.
The FAST Test is a simple test anyone can do to determine if they have had a stroke and it’s a method health experts encourage us to be familiar with.
These are the F.A.S.T signs of stroke:
Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms: Can they lift both arms?
Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time is critical: If you see any of these signs call 995 straight away.
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This post was first published on May 13, 2016, and updated on October 29, 2019.