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Strokes: Know the signs, get help fast

If you care for an older person, or have an elderly relative in your life, knowing the signs of stroke could help you save their life. Here’s what you need to know, and what to do if you think they might be having a stroke.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is caused by a blood clot in the brain, which restricts the flow of blood and causes a medical emergency. In the same way that a heart attack is caused when not enough blood is flowing to the heart, a stroke is literally a ‘brain attack’. Someone suffering a stroke needs immediate medical help, and the sooner they get this help, the better their chances of recovery.

What causes a stroke?

Some people are more at risk than others of suffering a stroke. Issues with certain medical conditions including diabetes, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all put people in the higher risk group. Other factors which can increase the risk include smoking, being overweight, poor diet, alcoholism and lack of exercise.

The signs of a stroke

The NHS have called upon all carers and people with elderly relatives to act F.A.S.T. This stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time, and could help you to recognise if someone you are with is having a stroke.

Face: Look at their face. Does it look unsymmetrical? Has it fallen on one side? Are they able to smile?
Arms: Can they raise both arms in the air? Can they keep them there easily?
Speech: Has their speech become slurred? Are they struggling to pronounce their words?
Time: Don’t waste time… call 999 if any single one of these symptoms are present

People suffering a stroke may experience loss of vision in one or both eyes, or may feel numb or tingly on one side of their body. They might act confused, or exhibit problems with their memory. They might also feel dizzy or fall down suddenly, although this can be caused by other things. If you aren’t sure, call the emergency services, because the faster they get help, the higher their chances of making a good recovery.

If they get better…

There is a type of stroke known as a transient ischaemic attack, or TIA for short, and some people refer to this as a ‘mini stroke’. The symptoms of this are generally the same as for a stroke, but they usually get better within 24 hours. Don’t ignore this warning sign, because it is often a precursor to a much more serious attack. Call the emergency services if you suspect a TIA so they can investigate quickly.

Knowing the signs of a stroke could save someone’s life, so think and act F.A.S.T. if someone you’re with becomes unwell.

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