About the condition

A stroke is a brain attack. About 80% of strokes happen because of a blockage in an artery, which cuts of the blood supply to the brain and causes cells to be damaged or to die. Strokes are sudden and have an immediate effect. They can affect bodily functions, thought processes, the ability to learn, and how we feel and communicate.

There are two main types of stroke.

Ischaemic strokes happen when there is a blockage or clot in an artery which carries blood to the brain.

Haemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain.

Symptoms

* Remember the FAST test: Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problems, Time to call 999.

* Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, slurred speech, difficulty understanding speech, blurred vision or loss of sight, confusion, unsteadiness.

* Temporary symptoms could indicate a mini stroke and precede a more serious one.

* After-effects can include visual problems, incontinence, fatigue, depression, and emotional as well as physical problems.

Prevention

There are several factors which increase an individual’s risk of stroke including his or her genes, age, ethnic background, diet, alcohol intake.

Smoking, fitness (or lack thereof) and other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity all have a bearing. For this reason, moderate drinking, healthy eating and taking exercise can all help prevent stroke. According to the latest research, Vitamin B may also help.

Treatment

A rapid response to a 999 call for suspected stroke. Immediate hospital care in A&E including an urgent brain scan, followed by stroke specialised rehabilitation.

Life after a Stroke

Stokes affect different people in different ways. A lot of people recover dramatically soon after their stroke; others face a longer period of rehabilitation and have to re-learn old skills and acquire new ones. Social, emotional, practical and financial support may be needed.

Useful websites

Did you know?

* Famous people who have suffered strokes include Sharon Stone, Monty Don and Andrew Marr.

* About a third of people who have a stroke make a significant recovery within a month. However it is also the third most common cause of death after heart disease and cancer, and the single most common cause of severe disability.

* Every year 150,000 people have a stroke, and 60,000 die of one. Most people who have strokes are over 65, but around 1000 of the total are under 30.

* Men are at a higher risk than women although women are one and a half times more likely to die from stroke than men.