Are You Stroke Aware?


Jan 13, 2015 by James

Every year, around 110,000 people in the UK suffer a stroke. For some, life will never be the same again and, contrary to popular perception, many of those people will be under the age of 65. Some of them will be children. However, the good news is that with quick intervention and general awareness, the effects of many strokes can be minimised and others can be prevented altogether. So, are you stroke aware? Read on to find out more.


What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when some of the blood supply to the brain is cut off. There are two types of major stroke: 

  • Ischaemic stroke – this is the most common type of stroke, and is due to a blockage in an artery that takes blood to the brain, or an obstruction in blood vessels within the brain. The blockage could be a blood clot, a globule of fat or an air bubble.
  • Haemorrhagic stroke – this, less frequent, stroke is caused by a bleed (haemorrhage) into the brain, for example when a blood vessel bursts.

There is another version of stroke, which is called a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or 'mini stroke'. In a TIA, symptoms are the same as those of a major stroke, but generally go away within 24-hours. However, a TIA is often a warning sign of a major stroke yet to come, so it is vital that anybody experiencing one seeks medical help immediately.



You can use the FAST test to recognise the symptoms of a stroke: 

  • Facial weakness
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech problems
  • Time to call 999, if any of these are present.


Who is at risk?

In short, everybody. Although the majority of stroke patients are over 65, a hefty one third of stroke victims are under 65, and a substantial number are children. Your risk of stroke can be increased by: 

  • Health – hypertension, atrial fibrillation and chronic stress and/or depression can all increase the risk of stroke.
  • Background – people in the UK who are of black and South Asian heritage are more likely to have a stroke, and at a younger age, although the reasons for this are not fully understood.
  • Lifestyle factors – diet, alcohol intake, smoking status and level of exercise all affect stroke risk.
  • Gender – men are 25% more likely than women to have a stroke, and tend to have them at a younger age.

Fortunately, it is possible to modify these risks. Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke, so quitting is helpful, while drinking too much alcohol may cause hypertension, which can in turn cause stroke. Eating healthily, and in particular keeping an eye on saturated fats and salt intake, can also be helpful.

A stroke can be devastating, leaving permanent physical and mental changes – it can even alter the personality. By being stroke aware, you can reduce the risk of this happening to you and the people around you, and be more able to intervene quickly if somebody does have a stroke in your presence. That is why being stroke aware is good for everybody.