Stroke rates drop in the UK

New figures released by Kings College London’s School of Population, Health and Environmental Sciences shows the number of people having strokes fell by 43 per cent between 2000 and 2015.

Researchers arrived at their findings after analysing information on more than 3,000 cases of the type of stroke caused by a blood clot, called an ischaemic stroke. The information came from the South London Stroke Register, which has been collecting information on stroke in the region since 1995.

The drop in stroke rate, the suggest, may be attributed to a number of factors, including improved prevention measures such as reduced smoking and drinking as well as the use of medication designed to reduce stroke risk.

Published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the study also found the following:

  • People having strokes are tending to have them younger (during 2012 – 2015 the average age of someone having their first stroke was 69, compared with 72 during 2000 – 2003)
  • Stroke rates have fallen at a much lower level in the black population, however, arguably because there are higher levels of high blood pressure and diabetes in black patients (both conditions can increase your risk of having a stroke)

So how can you prevent having a stroke? According to the NHS, the best way is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.

These measures can reduce your risk of problems that make having a stroke more likely, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a condition called atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). And if you’ve already had a stroke, making these changes could help reduce your risk of having another in the future.

Stroke: could you recognise one?

Stroke is a serious condition caused by the blood supply to part of the brain becoming cut off and is classed as a medical emergency. According to the NHS, ischaemic stroke accounts for 85 per cent of all stroke cases.

The other main type of stroke is haemorrhagic, where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts. There’s also a related condition called a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is when the blood supply to the brain becomes interrupted temporarily. This is often called a mini stroke.

If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, it’s essential to get medical help immediately, as the sooner someone receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.

The best way to recognise the main symptoms of stroke is to remember the word FAST:

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.

While remembering the word FAST 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

For more information on recognising the symptoms of a stroke as well as tips on how you could reduce your risk of having one, have a chat with your local Careway pharmacist.

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