Stroke symptoms just can't wait

Health correspondent / 19 July 2007 ( 28 July 2016 )

If you spot symptoms of a stroke in yourself or someone else, you need to act F.A.S.T.

It seems we are more likely to react quickly to a threat to our wealth than our health, according to a poll by the Stroke Association.

The poll, which involved 2,000 people, suggests that 88% of us would react straightaway if we lost a bank card. In contrast, 34% of people polled would wait for 24 hours before seeking medical help if they had symptoms of a stroke such as problems speaking or weakness in the face or arms.

Only 33% knew that a stroke caused immediate brain damage, raising concerns about the lack of understanding of the terrible effects of stroke.

Women were most aware – 69% said they’d call 999 at once if they had stroke symptoms, compared to 59% of men. And those aged 45-54 were most likely to react quickly.

People aged 16-24 and the over 65s were least likely to act quickly. Over 130,000 people in the UK have a stroke every year. Most are over 65, but anyone can have a stroke, even babies.

"These results highlight how stroke continues to be misunderstood by the public and is way down on their agenda," comments Joe Korner, Director of Communications at The Stroke Association. "People simply do not realise the devastation that a stroke can cause or that it can be prevented."

A survey showed that people thought they were more at risk of being mugged than having a stroke. But a mugging occurs up to every 13 minutes, while someone has a stroke every five minutes.

Stroke facts

  • Stroke is the third biggest killer and the leading cause of severe disability in the UK
  • Stroke happens when there is a blood clot or bleed in the brain, which damages or kills brain cells in the affected area
  • The signs of a stroke are; facial weakness, arm or leg weakness, speech problems, loss of sight or blurred vision
  • Limiting the damage from a stroke is vital to your recovery. If you think you may have had a stroke, call an ambulance and get to hospital straight away

Stroke symptoms

To help identify a stroke use FAST, the Face-Arm-Speech Test. These three checks will help you recognise if someone has had a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack – TIA).

  • F Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or an eye drooped?
  • A Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
  • S Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • T Time: If you see any one of these three signs, it’s TIME to call 999.

If you see any of these signs, call 999 immediately.

Preventing a stroke

Some simple lifestyle changes may help prevent a stroke happening.

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking doubles your risk of stroke
  • Drink sensibly, Too much alcohol raises your blood pressure, which increases your risk of stroke
  • Eat sensibly. Don’t have too much saturated fat as it helps fur up your arteries, putting you at greater risk of stroke
  • Keep salt to a minimum as it raises blood pressure
  • Watch your weight. Being overweight increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, which increase your risk of stroke
  • Have your blood pressure checked

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.