As part of our ongoing series of health columns, Dr Debbie Austin, High Peak GP and member of the Governing Body of NHS North Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, talks about strokes.
Many people have high blood pressure and are unaware of it, putting them at risk of a stroke unless they make changes to their lifestyle and seek medical attention.
High blood pressure affects around 31 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women across the country.
Strokes are the third largest cause of death (after heart disease and cancers) and are the largest cause of adult disability in the UK. They mainly affect those aged over 65, although they can occur in younger people as well.
A stroke is a medical emergency. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, and the cells affected are damaged or die. There are two main causes of stroke – ischaemic (which accounts for 80 per cent of all cases) where the blood supply is stopped by a blood clot and haemorrhagic where a weakened blood vessel bursts and causes brain damage.
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.
Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness.
Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.
The effects of a stroke can have a long term major impact on the person and their families, and many survivors are left with long-term problems. In the most severe cases strokes can be fatal or cause severe disability.
It is vitally important to recognise the signs of a stroke and call 999 straight away. By getting to the hospital quickly, a person having a stroke can get clot-busting drugs if they need them and specialist care. The sooner they get treatment the less damage is likely to happen.
It is estimated that for every ten people who die of stroke, four could have been saved if they had arranged regular blood pressure measurements and then followed medical advice. A lot of people that are tested are shocked to hear their blood pressure is high. So, I would urge everyone to ‘know their numbers’ by having their blood pressure checked.
This is a quick, free and painless way to find out your own risk.
For patients who already suffer from high blood pressure, or who have suffered from a mini stroke/stroke, it’s important that they continue with follow up at their GP surgery as recommended by their doctor in order to ensure their risks are managed accordingly.
For more information about strokes visit www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Stroke/Pages/Introduction.aspx.