What causes a stroke?
Most strokes happen when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to your brain. Blood clots usually form in areas where the arteries have become narrowed or ‘furred’ up by fatty deposits. This is called atheroscelrosis.
As we age our arteries become harder and narrower. However, certain medical conditions and lifestyle factors can speed up this process and increase your risk of having a stroke.
Medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase your risk of having a stroke.
Lifestyle factors, such as diet, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking and how active you are, can also increase your risk.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
You can recognise a stroke using the FAST test:
- FACIAL weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
- ARM weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
- SPEECH problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
- TIME to call 999
If a person fails any one of these tests, get help immediately by dialling 999.
A speedy response can help reduce the damage to a person’s brain and improve their chances of a full recovery. A delay in getting help can result in death or long-term disabilities.
Don’t ignore temporary symptoms
If symptoms disappear within 24 hours, the person may have had a Transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is also called a mini-stroke.
A TIA is serious and should not be ignored. If you see or experience any of the symptoms described above you must call 999, as there is no way of telling whether you are having a TIA or a stroke when the symptoms first start.
If you think someone has had a TIA and they have not sought medical attention, get them to see their GP urgently. A TIA is a warning sign that they may be at risk of stroke, so they need to see a doctor as quickly as possible.