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Act FAST campaign returns for World Stroke Day, October 29

Public Health England is once again urging people to be vigilant to the signs of stroke with the return of its ‘Act FAST’ campaign, launched to coincide with World Stroke Day on October 29.

The national campaign includes TV and on demand advertising supported by press and radio activity and aims to raise awareness of the signs of stroke and therefore save lives. Act FAST highlights four key symptoms of stroke to look out for, but stresses that just one of the below symptoms requires an emergency medical response.

Face - has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?

Arms - can they raise both their arms and keep them there?

Speech - is their speech slurred?

If you notice any of these symptoms, in yourself or in someone else, it is:

Time - time to call 999 if you detect any one of these signs.

Act Fast Stroke Campaign

Additional symptoms of stroke and mini stroke include:

  • sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • sudden memory loss or confusion
  • sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially with any of the other symptoms.

During a stroke, around two million nerve cells - the core components of the brain and central nervous system - are lost every minute that passes without treatment. The faster medical attention is sought, the better the person's chances of recovery are.

Jon Barrick, Chief Executive at the Stroke Association says: “Acting FAST can help reduce the devastating impact a stroke can have. We know that sadly, far too many people dismiss the early warning signs of stroke and delay calling 999. It’s easy to ignore these signs as a ‘funny turn’, but stroke is a medical emergency and getting the right treatment fast can save lives and reduce the devastation that stroke can bring.

“You are more likely to survive a stroke, and make a better recovery, if your symptoms are spotted and you get treated in a stroke unit as quickly as possible. We need to Act FAST because time lost is brain lost.”

The Stroke Association says that by the age of 75, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 6 men will have suffered a stroke. However, one in four strokes occur in people under the age of 65 and can also occur in young people and even children. In the UK, 110,000 strokes are suffered every year and stroke is the third largest cause of death -  yet up to 80% of strokes are preventable.

Dr Ann Hoskins, Director of Children, Young People and Families at Public Health England, says: “Every minute really does count when it comes to stroke and delaying treatment can have serious consequences. We are urging everyone to stay alert to the signs of stroke and to seek immediate medical attention if they notice any of the symptoms in others. The faster a stroke is treated, the better the chances of a good recovery.”

Thanks to improved awareness and treatments, 1.2 million people in the UK are stroke survivors, however 30% are likely to go on to suffer another stroke. Despite a range of rehabilitation approaches, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, more than a third of survivors will still be dependent on some form of regular help from friends and family and half of all stroke survivors have a lasting disability.

What causes stroke?

Unfortunately, arterial hardening – when the arteries become harder and narrower – tends to happen naturally as we age, but certain health conditions and lifestyle choices can make this occur sooner rather than later.

If you suffer from high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, have a BMI of 30 or above, have diabetes or have ever suffered a mini stroke, you are more at risk of having a stroke in the future.

Other major factors that increase stroke risk include poor diet, an inactive lifestyle, smoking and moderate to heavy alcohol consumption, all of which can dramatically increase the risk of suffering a stroke. Women are also more at risk during pregnancy and in the post-partum period, and there is evidence to suggest that some contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy medication also increase risk.

What is a stroke?

According to the Stroke Association, a stroke is essentially a brain attack. Stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off or restricted or there is a bleed on the brain. Since the blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients, brain cells can be damaged, sometimes permanently, as a result.

Damage caused by a stroke can vary, depending on which part of the brain is affected and how quickly medical help is sought. Stroke can have lasting effects on movement, body function and can also impact on thoughts, feelings and a person’s ability to communicate.

Act Fast Stroke

The different types of stroke

According to the Stroke Association, the majority of strokes are caused by a blockage cutting off the blood supply to the brain – an ischaemic stroke. Strokes can also be caused by a bleeding in or around the brain, known as a haemorrhagic stroke.

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ‘mini stroke’ has similar symptoms to a stroke, but is caused by a temporary disruption of the blood supply to the brain. This means the symptoms last for a shorter amount of time. A mini stroke, or warning stroke, is defined as such if the symptoms resolve within 24 hours however, around 20% of people who experience a mini stroke will go on to suffer a full stroke within a few days.

How can I reduce my risk of having a stroke?

The Stroke Association says that up to 80% of strokes could be preventable and lists a number of factors that can decrease your stroke risk. Besides stopping smoking and limiting alcohol consumption, it urges people to:

  • Stay physically active, including regular moderate exercise – which can reduce your risk by as much as 27%.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk by 22% and if you are obese, by 64%.
  • Eating a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, as studies have identified a clear association between healthy diet and stroke risk. Currently only 15% of adults meet the recommended 5-a-day target.

To find out more about reducing your risk, visit the Stroke Association website.

For those aged between 40 and 74, the NHS Health Check programme assesses a person’s risk of developing stroke as well as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and some forms of dementia. More information can be found on the NHS website.

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