Be stroke aware this May

Every year, the UK’s Stroke Association holds Make May Purple for Stroke, the charity’s annual stroke awareness month. This year, as well as wearing purple to show your support for those who have been affected by stroke, why not increase your awareness of stroke and the signs and symptoms to look for too?

A stroke is a brain attack that happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. This can happen when your arteries become harder and narrower, causing a blockage. Getting older often makes this more likely, but some medical conditions and lifestyle factors can cause a blockage in younger people. And when your blood supply is cut off, it means the essential nutrients and oxygen the blood delivers are cut off too, causing damage to your brain cells.

Depending on what part of your brain is affected by the blockage, you may experience different outcomes, such as changes in how your body works or how you think, feel and communicate.

Types of stroke

There are different types of stroke, the most common being an ischaemic stroke. A mini stroke – or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – is like an ischaemic stroke, except the symptoms only last for a short amount of time (that is, the blockage is temporary).

Strokes can also be caused by bleeding in or around the brain rather than a blockage. This is known as a haemorrhagic stroke.

Whatever the type of stroke, it’s vital that you get medical help as quickly as possible, as the faster you receive treatment, the better your chances for a good recovery. So if you can recognise the symptoms of a stroke, you could be a life saver.

According to the Stroke Association, the best way to do this is to use the FAST test:

Face: Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?

Arms: Can the person raise both arms and keep them there?

Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?

Time: If you see any of these three signs, it’s time to call 999.

There is no way of knowing if symptoms will pass or get better when they first start, so you need to seek immediate medical help. A stroke is a medical emergency. Always dial 999. The quicker the person arrives at a specialist stroke unit, the quicker they will receive appropriate treatment.

While the FAST test may help you spot the three most common symptoms of a stroke, other signs that you should also look out for include the following:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet
  • Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion, and dizziness; or a sudden fall
  • A sudden, severe headache

Test how well you know the FAST test by taking the Stroke Association’s FAST quiz.

Certain medical conditions such as having high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation may increase your risk of having a stroke. But making lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol, eating healthily, doing more exercise and watching your weight can help. Ask your local Careway pharmacist for tips on making healthy lifestyle changes, and you may reduce your risk of stroke as a result.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.