04 May 2018

Someone in the UK has a stroke every five minutes. That’s 100,000 people having a potentially life changing medical condition in their brain every year. Now, NHS St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants us to know the signs to look out for.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, meaning urgent treatment is essential to try and limit the damage caused.

According to The Stroke Association, there are approximately 1.2 million stroke survivors in the country.

Dr Michael Ejuoneatse, GP and Governing Body Member at NHS St Helens CCG, said: “Treatment for stroke is always improving, and more and more people are surviving and achieving some level of recovery − although up to two-thirds will be left with some level of disability.

“A stroke can sometimes be devastating, so it’s really important that we all know the signs to look out for in either ourselves or someone else, to show they may be having a stroke. 

Symptoms of a stroke

Think F.A.S.T.

Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.

Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.

Time – it's time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

Dr Michael Ejuoneatse adds: "This month is 'Action on Stroke Month' and we are encouraging everyone to take some basic steps to help lower the risk of a stroke. It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle, by eating a balanced diet, doing more exercise and stopping smoking. There is a range of free advice and support available through your local pharmacist and GP practice.”

Diet

A high fibre, low fat diet helps to keep your weight and blood pressure down. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and cut down on fatty, salty and highly processed foods.

Get moving

NHS advice for most people is to take at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week. That means it should make you breathe a bit harder and raise your heart rate – cycling, brisk walking and swimming are all cheap and easy ways to get your blood pumping a bit faster.

If you smoke stop!

This is the single most important thing you can do for your overall health. If you need help, your pharmacist can advise on products to support you through nicotine withdrawal. The NHS Smokefree app will also help and your GP can prescribe medications if you need them.

Cut back on alcohol

Drinking more than the recommended weekly limit can increase blood pressure and cause atrial fibrillation. This is an irregular, fast heartbeat that raises your risk of stroke.

Manage existing health conditions

Unfortunately, some health conditions can make you more likely to have a stroke. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The lifestyle changes outlined here will help you to manage these better, but you may also need to take medication. Follow your GP’s advice.

For more information about stroke, visit the NHS Choices website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/