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Strokes – Some information

Information on Strokes and how to deal with them.

Strokes some Facts

  • Strokes occurs approximately 152,000 times a year in the UK (one every 3 and a half minutes)
  • A stroke is the third single largest cause of death in the UK (1 in 10)
  • A Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the UK (half of all stroke survivors dependent on others)
  • High Blood Pressure contributes to aprox. 50% of all strokes

What is a Stroke?

Put simply a stroke is a brain attack. (Like a heart attack but on the brain)

A stroke begins when the blood flow to the brain stops.  The brain needs a consistent supply of blood which feeds it with oxygen and nutrients. When the blood supply is interrupted or stopped brain cells are starved of oxygen and start to perish, leaving the starved part of the brain unable to function properly.  Should this happen it can cause permanent damage to the brain tissues and its functions.

Strokes are generally caused by damage to the arteries that carry blood to the brain.

When we age our arteries tend to harden and weaken leading to a blood vessel rupturing.  Also our arteries can narrow from a build-up of fatty deposits.

The general types of strokes include:

Ischemic strokes: – These are caused by blockages in an artery that supplies the brain.  Clots can form in these arteries directly or can form elsewhere in body and be carried to the brain. Clots commonly form where arteries have narrowed due to the build-up of fatty deposits (cholesterol) on their inner walls.

Haemorrhagic strokes: – These are caused where a blood vessels supplying the brain bursts and causes a bleed on the brain. The most common cause of a haemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure which damages and weakens the arteries making them more likely to tear; this includes serious head injuries.

Transient Ischemic attack: – This is where a temporary blockage occurs in an artery, which then clears of its own accord, before any lasting damage to the brain is done.

Symptoms can start and then stop but should not be ignored.

Who is at Risk?

Anyone can have a stroke but the over 65 age group are most at risk.  However, a quarter of strokes occur in people who are under 65.

People also at a higher risk of strokes are those with high blood pressure, people with high cholesterol, and people with heart disease or diabetes.  Those at increased risk are smokers, people who are overweight and those with poor diets and lacking regular exercise .

You can also be more susceptible to strokes if you are south Asian, African or Caribbean.

Symptoms of a Stroke

People are affected differently by stroke and symptoms really depend on which part of the brain is affected and for what functions this part of the brain is responsible for.  The severity of the symptoms depends on how much damage is done or being done to the brain.

Stroke symptoms can occur at anytime and without warning.  The main symptoms of someone having a stroke could be:

  • Numbness / tingling in one side of the body
  • Weakness in one side of the body
  • Drooping in one side of the face
  • Speech problems – slurred speech, muddled words
  • Visual problems – blurred vision, loss of vision
  • Drifting in and out of consciousness.
  • Head ache

Treatment

Strokes - FAST

Strokes – FAST

If you suspect someone is having a stroke act quickly dial 999 / 112 ASAP

You may have heard of the FAST test.  Check these symptoms out immediately:

F – FACE – Look at their face is it drooping on one side

A – ARMS – Can they lift their arms up / do they have equal power in both arms?

S – SPEECH – Are they slurring or stuttering can you understand them.

T – TIME – Do not hang about get on the phone and call 999 / 112 immediately

Other than the above and monitoring the person’s vital signs (breathing/pulse) there is little that first aid personnel can do.  These casualties need to get to a hospital FAST

Watch vital signs, and be prepared to resuscitate if they stop breathing.

Hospital medical staff will carry out a number of tests to find out what has caused the stroke and to decide on care and treatment.

  • Blood pressure tests – Revealing if high blood pressure may have caused a Haemorrhagic stroke.
  • Blood tests – Checking cholesterol and blood sugar levels and checking for clots. They can also check that other parts of the body are healthy enough to cope with any medication that may be prescribed.
  • A Brain Scan – Ether a CT, CAT or a MRI scan

Recovery

The damage caused by a stroke can be widespread and long-lasting.  Many people need to have a period of rehabilitation before they can recover.  The process of rehabilitation will differ from person to person and will depend on the severity of the stroke.   The damage a stroke can causes to someone’s brain can impact massively on many aspects of their life and independence.

Some people can make a recovery in just a first few weeks or months after the stroke, but other people recover slowly.  Full recovery could take years and sometimes not at all.

During recovery there is lots of help available.  This includes physiotherapy for physical mobility and language therapists to recover full speech and associated issues with the throat.

People might also benefit from seeing an occupational therapist; to redevelop the skills needed to perform everyday tasks like washing and cooking. They can also recommend special equipment or adaptations to the home to make life easier.

How can I reduce my risk of having a stroke?

  • Stop smoking
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Have your blood pressure checked

The best way to prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.

Smoking: – Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke by narrowing your arteries and making your blood more likely to clot.

If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you are six times more likely to have a stroke compared to a non-smoker.

Alcohol: – Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and also may lead to an irregular heartbeat (arterial fibrillation).  Both are major risk factors for stroke.  Alcoholic drinks are rich in energy (high in calories) they also cause weight gain.

Heavy drinking multiplies the risk of stroke by more than three times.

Diet: – A poor diet can be a major risk factor for a stroke.  High-fat foods can lead to the build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries and being overweight can lead to high blood pressure.

Exercise: – Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure.  Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient. It will also lower your cholesterol level and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

 

For more information on this subject or if you would like to take part in a first aid course please visit our website www.aberfalfirstaid.co.uk or Email us at info@aberfalfirstaid.co.uk or call on 07968770756.

Published on May 14th, 2014 and is filed under Blog.


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