Stroke is the second leading cause of death in the world with 6.2 million deaths per year being due to a stroke. It is also the leading cause of disability with 5 million people being permanently disabled every year after suffering a stroke.
It is estimated that members of the black community are twice as likely to suffer from a stroke as the white population. This is thought to be related to the fact that a stroke is a complication of diabetes, high blood pressure and sickle cell; these are all common conditions in the black community.
The good news is that strokes can be prevented as research has shown that 90% of strokes are linked to avoidable risks.
What is it?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off resulting in damage to or death of brain cells. You can think of it as being similar to a heart attack, but it takes place in the brain, people sometimes refer to it as a brain attack.
There are two types:
Ischaemic strokes – this is where something blocks an artery to the brain. The blockage can be caused by a blood clot, air bubble or fat globule.
Haemorrhagic strokes – these occur when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain.
You can watch the video below to find out more about what it is.
When someone has a stroke it is very important that they get medical care quickly to ensure that any damage to the brain is kept to a minimum. It can happen suddenly so the person who has the stroke or those around him/her may not recognise what is happening until it is too late. There may be warning signs just before a stroke occurs so it is very important that everyone is aware of what these are so that you can get help immediately from the emergency services.
The warning signs are:
- Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
- Confusion or trouble understanding other people
- Trouble speaking
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Trouble walking or staying balanced or coordinated
- Severe headache that comes on for no known reason
Who is at risk?
- Older people – most strokes occur in people over the age of 65 but younger people have strokes too with 25% being in younger people
- People with a family history–if a close family member has had a stroke your risk of having a stroke is higher
- Particular ethnic groups – South Asians, Africans and Caribbeans are more likely to have a stroke
- People with a medical history – if you’ve already had a stroke, heart attack or a mini-stroke you are more likely to have a stroke. Also if you have diabetes, high blood pressure and sickle cell.
- Smokers – smoking doubles your risk
- Drinkers – alcohol can increase your risk
You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by:
- Eating a healthy diet – a low fat, high fibre diet is recommended including plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Regular exercise – this will make your heart and blood circulation more efficient
- Not smoking
- Reducing your alcohol intake
Face: weakness of the face. Can you or the person smile? Has your face fallen on one side?
Arms: weakness in the arms. Can you or the person lift their arms?
Speech: has your speech been affected. Are you experiencing slurred speech?
Time: if any of the above are experienced then call 999/911 immediately
For more information you can visit the following websites: