A stroke is caused when blood supply to the brain is restricted, usually due to arteries being clogged. When this happens, cells in the brain begin to die. For this reason symptoms of a stroke can vary. It is dependent on the area of the brain that is affected. A stroke can happen very suddenly. It is important if any of the signs of a stroke appear to call for emergency help immediately. Up to two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke so it is imperative that this is treated as quickly as possible. It can lead to irreparable brain damage, or be fatal. 80% of strokes are Ischaemic. This is when blood supply becomes restricted due to a clot in the arteries. The other 20% are Haemorrhagic. Haemorrhagic strokes occur when a weakened blood vessel bursts.

Who is at Risk?

Strokes are a major health problem. They are one of the leading causes of death in the western world and are also responsible for a large number of adult disabilities. Strokes can be contributed to by a poor diet or smoking, a lack of exercise or by being overweight. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause a stroke. Any poor lifestyle choice, which has the potential to clog the arteries, could contribute to being at risk. Conditions that affect the circulation such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels would also increase the risk of having a stroke. Those over the age of 65 are at a higher risk of stroke, as are those with a genetic disposition to heart disease or diabetes. 25% of all stroke victims, however, are under the age of 65. There are larger numbers of women who have strokes then men. This by no means suggests that men are not vulnerable however.

How to Spot a Stroke

When looking out for signs of a stroke there is a useful acronym to remember: FACE. This stands for face, arms, speech and time. If someone is having a stroke it is possible that part of the facial features will droop, possibly the eye or mouth, or the whole of one side of the face. The person may be unable to smile. One or both of the arms may become so severely weakened that this/these may appear disabled. The person may be unable to lift their arm. The speech can also be affected. Speech can become slurred or confused. In some cases, the person may not be able to speak at all. It is worth repeating. Time is of the essence. It is very important to get emergency help immediately. The quicker a stroke victim is given medical assistance the less potential damage to the brain.

Other signs of a stroke include: numbness or weakness (often in one side of the body), a sudden loss of vision, dizziness, not understanding what someone is saying, problems with balance or co-ordination, difficulty swallowing, or unusually severe or sudden headaches (often accompanied with neck pain). If any of these symptoms occur it is advisable to seek immediate medical assistance.

What if the Symptoms Disappear?

Many people suffer from mini-strokes, also known as Transient Ischaemic Attacks. Mini-strokes have the same symptoms as a stroke but can last between a few minutes to a few hours and then disappear.

Do not ignore a mini-stroke! It is often a warning sign that there is a problem with the supply of blood to the brain. There is a one in ten chance if you suffer a mini-stroke that it will be followed by a more serious stroke within four weeks. Getting medical assistance means that this can more than likely be avoided. There is a range of medications that can be taken to help prevent strokes, or a stroke reoccurrence.

Ways to Prevent a Stroke Occurring

As mentioned previously a healthy lifestyle which incorporates a supportive diet and some daily exercise will help reduce the risk of blockages in the arteries. As high blood pressure could indicate the risk of a stroke have this tested at least once a year and then make adjustments to lower it if needs be. Similarly, have your cholesterol levels measured. If these are elevated it is better to know so that you can take positive action. If you experience any problems with circulation, talk to your doctor and follow the advice given. Likewise, if you suffer from Diabetes take heed of medical instruction. Finally, reducing the amount of salt and saturated fat in your diet will be beneficial in helping to prevent a wide range of potential health difficulties including the risk of a stroke.