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Health Matters: Action on Stroke Month

Health Matters: Action on Stroke Month
29 April 2019

Dr Sarah Oliver, local GP and clinical lead for stroke services, NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group

As May is Stroke Awareness Month, I want to use this week’s column to tell you a little about the prevalence of stroke, how you can reduce your risk, and the services available to help you get better if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer a stroke. Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in the UK.

A stroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, causing brain cells to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.

The good news is that most of the risk factors for having a stroke are modifiable, which means that you can do something about them to reduce your risk of having a stroke in the first place.

The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol. These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems like: arteries becoming clogged with fatty substances, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

Timing is all important when it comes to detecting when someone is having a stroke, as a person loses two million nerve cells every minute they don’t receive medical treatment during a stroke, so recognising the signs and getting to hospital early can save a life.

Act F.A.S.T to recognise the signs:

  • Facial weakness – can they smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness – can they raise both arms?
  • Speech problems – can they speak clearly and can they understand what you're saying?
  • Time – it's time to call 999 immediately if you see any of these symptoms.

It’s pleasing to know that you’re in safe hands if you do suffer from a stroke, as Eastern Cheshire’s hospital-based care for stroke was awarded the highest rating (A) by the Royal College of Physicians last year, which indicates ‘world-class stroke care’.

There’s also support once you leave hospital, including the Integrated Community Stroke Rehabilitation Service, which offers specialist rehabilitation in or close to patients’ homes with health and social care staff providing physical, psychological and social assistance to help you get back on your feet.

The Stroke Association has a great website with lots of information on prevention, treatment and recovery. They have just launched their first ever TV awareness campaign, in which six stroke survivors share how their stroke felt; watch it here.