We’ve all seen that advert on the telly – the one with the older lady whose face starts to sag on one side, whose speech starts to slur, who drops her cuppa and who has some rather alarming fire coming out of her forehead.
The advert is telling us two things. The first is how to recognise the signs of a stroke, and to act F.A.S.T. (an acronym standing for Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to act).
The second, incidental lesson, is that strokes only happen to older people.
But that’s simply not true, as was proved by the BBC’s Andrew Marr this week.
Apart from being a man who knows a lot about pretty much everything, Andrew is a keen runner, a bastion of health indeed, and at 53 is far younger than the woman in that advert.
But he still suffered a stroke and is now recovering in hospital.
Of course, age is one of the biggest risk factors. But strokes can occur in anyone at all.
More than 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke each year, and a staggering quarter of them are under 65.
No, it’s not just those people who smoke, drink, carry extra weight around their tummies and skip the vegetables who are at risk.
Because there are even cases of childhood strokes. Around 80 per cent of them are caused by blood clots in the brain.
But some are caused by blood vessels bursting in the brain due to genetic weaknesses or even stress – and these are the ones people under 65 should beware of.
These strokes can happen even in babies, young children – and in a friend of mine from college. She suffered a series of strokes which, thankfully, she has recovered from and is now a mum.
And this is the thing. Should it take a well-known television personality to have a stroke, or someone we know, to tell us that we should be aware of strokes happening to younger people?
No. The lesson we should learn, the one the advert didn’t teach, is that we should know the signs and be watching out for them in everyone, young and old alike.
And if we do see them, we should act. F.A.S.T.