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Stroke symptoms and risk factors

Most of us know someone who has suffered a stroke but did you know it is the third most common cause of death in the UK?

Here we take a look at why a stroke occurs and what we can do to minimise the risk?

What happens during a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.  It can lead to damage to an area of brain tissue and even death, but how much it will affect someone depends on where it occurs in the brain and ultimately how much damage has been done.

If a stroke occurs on the left side of the brain, the right side of the body will be affected.  If a stroke occurs in the area of the brain responsible for speech then speech will be affected.  If damage occurs in the area of the brain responsible for breathing then this can cause immediate death.

Who is most at risk?

  • Men are more at risk under the age of 75
  • There is an increased risk if you have a family history of stroke
  • The older you become the more your risk increases
  • Afro-Caribbean, Asian and African people are more at risk
  • If you have heart disease
  • If you have diabetes
  • Stress and depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Suffering a minor stroke (transient ischaemic attack) and not recognising or acting on the symptoms.

Your lifestyle choices may put you more at risk and these risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being overweight
  • Lack of exercise

What can we do to minimise the risk?

The way to minimise the risk of a stroke is to eat a healthy balanced diet which includes increasing your fibre intake and reducing the amount of salt in your diet.

Keeping a healthy weight will also help as being overweight can lead to increased blood pressure which is an additional risk factor.  A healthy adult’s blood pressure reading shouldn’t be more than 140/90.  Find out more on how to understand your numbers here.

Taking regular exercise can help to keep your weight stable along with boosting your mood.

So a healthy lifestyle should automatically reduce your risk, whatever your family history.

Act FAST

Learn the Stroke Association FAST test – this will help you to recognise the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

F – facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

A – arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?

S – speech problems – has the person’s speech changed?  Can they understand what you say?

T – time to call 999

If you see one or more of the above symptoms then medical help must be sought immediately as early treatment is crucial.  Don’t wait – dial 999.

To find out more visit the Stroke Association – www.stroke.org.uk

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We've teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to bring you articles, information and tips from their clinical teams on a wide range of health topics. And if you have a health related question of your own - about your or your family's health, medication or upcoming procedures, for example - you can also access their, "Ask the Expert" service. Available around the clock, 365 days a year this free resource allows you to ask the team of friendly and experienced nurses, midwives and pharmacists about any health concerns you may have - whenever you need them, 24 hours a day, every day. Please get in touch now.

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The more you know about your body and how you can look after it, the healthier you are – and the stronger and bolder you become. That’s why we never stop looking for ways to support your health. We want to give you the tools and knowledge you need to take care of yourself – so you’re ready to face whatever the world brings.

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