How to recognise a stroke.

Time really matters when it comes to identifying a stroke. The quicker a person gets to hospital the higher their chances for a recovery.

Stroke can happen to anyone; old or young

Throughout my A&E nursing career I have nursed many people that have been rushed into the resuscitation room after suffering a stroke. It is the most terrifying time of their life; as they often are not able to move their arms or legs and in severe cases were not able to speak or even swallow properly.

Most people think that strokes only happen to the elderly but this is just a myth. A stroke can happen at anytime  and even affects young people and children.

1 in 4 strokes that happen in the UK happen to people of working age and are the most significant cause of disability.

What causes a Stroke?

The simplest way to understand a stroke is that it is a heart attack in the brain. What this means is that there has either been:

  1. a clot in the blood vessels in the brain
  2. or the blood vessels have burst and bled into the brain.

The disruption of the blood supply causes parts of the brain to become damaged and die due to a lack of oxygen.

This is a medical emergency and requires prompt treatment so the blockage can be cleared to restore the blood supply and  damage to the brain can  be reduced. This is where the first aid response comes in.

Symptoms of a stroke and how to identify it.

It’s vital to know how to spot the warning signs of a stroke in yourself or others as early intervention reduces the risk of long lasting disability. In the Uk we use the FAST system to identify stroke.

The FAST campaign was relaunched in 2018 by Public Health England and the stroke association to bring stroke awareness and to empower people to call 999 at any sign of a stroke.

FAST is a quick and easy way for people to recognise the early warning signs as they are not always easy to detect. People sometimes mistaken stroke symptoms as a person being drunk or under the influence of drugs as their speech may be slurred and they are confused.  Following FAST could save a life.

F ace- Can they smile? Does one side droop?
A rm- Can they lift both arms? Is one weak?
S peech- Is their speech slurred or muddled?
T ime- to call 999

This is a fantastic demonstration video produced by the stroke association demonstrating what the symptoms of stroke could look like and how you can use FAST to identity stroke. As a warning this video can be distressing to some viewers as the acting is very life like.

Recognising a transient Ischaemic attack (TIA)

There is another type of stroke called a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA). This is also known as a ‘mini stroke’ which is similar to a stroke but lasts a shorter time. The FAST test can also be used to recognise the signs and symptoms of a TIA. The signs should never be ignored and you should not delay a trip to the hospital or GP. TIA’s can be the first warning sign for a person to make immediate changes to their lifestyle and preserve their health.

The NHS has a good guide that shows you how a stroke is treated in hospital.

Reducing the risk of stroke

It’s not possible to completely prevent strokes because some factors that increase your risk of this condition cannot be changed. These include:

  • Age: A person is more likely to have a stroke if they are 55 and over.
  • Family history: If a close relative has had a stroke your risk will be higher.
  • Your previous medical history: if you have previously had a stroke, TIA or heart attack, your risk of stroke will be higher.

It is possible to reduce the risk of having a stroke by making lifestyle changes to avoid problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Lifestyle Factors

The way we live has a big impact on our risk of stroke. Things like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and eating unhealthy foods can damage our blood vessels, increase our blood pressure and make our blood more likely to clot. Therefore, it is very important to have a healthy balanced diet and take regular exercise to reduce the risk of a stroke. Making these lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems like:

  • Arteries becoming clogged with fatty substances
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels

If you would like to know more about what to do if you find someone having a stroke or would like to do a first aid course then please contact us at Expert First Aid.

Expert First Aid provides this information for guidance and does not in any way substitute for medical advice. Expert First Aid is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information.

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