In England, strokes are the third largest cause of death after heart disease and cancer, with more than 150,000 people having a stroke every year.
Strokes are also the largest cause of adult disability across the UK due to the brain damage they cause.
This means it is very important to get medical help immediately if you, or someone near you, is suffering from a stroke.
In order to help with spotting the symptoms, the Act F.A.S.T. campaign was launched by the Department of Health in 2009. This aims to highlight the obvious signs of a stroke:
· Face – A stroke sufferer’s face will fall on one side, and they will be unable to smile
· Arms – They will often lose strength and feeling in at least one of their arms, meaning they are unable to raise them above their head
· Speech – This will often become slurred
· Time – If you observe any one of these signs in yourself or someone else, call 999 immediately
There are two different types of stroke, both with different causes. A haemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel which supplies the brain bursts.
The more common stroke, called ischaemic, takes place when the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot.
A transient ischaemic attack (TIA), often referred to as a mini-stroke, is a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain and is often a warning sign or pre-cursor to a full stroke.
Strokes can be caused by diseased arteries, which become narrower due to cholesterol, damage from smoking or other obstructions, or an aneurysm, where an artery wall becomes weak and stretched and can burst.
Although very serious, strokes can be treated and prevented through a series of steps.
Strokes can be treated through the use of drugs, such as those which reduce clotting in the blood and those aimed at reducing cholesterol and blood pressure.
Surgery can also be used in those cases where a TIA or stroke has been caused by a narrowed artery, in order to widen the artery and reduce the likelihood of another stroke.
Stroke prevention is a combination of several factors.
Controlling your diet is a great place to start. By adopting a low fat and high fibre diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables, your cholesterol levels can be reduced, hence lowering your risk of stroke.
Stopping smoking as well as keeping control of high blood pressure will also reduce the risk.
Regular exercise will also help you maintain a healthy weight, and will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient.
Around half of the people who survive a stroke will be left with a significant disability.
However, recovery is still possible. The time this takes is extremely variable, and the recovery period may last between a year to 18 months, and sometimes longer.
Rehabilitation can be implemented, which can help with physical recovery after a stroke as well as getting over the mental and social effects of a stroke.
The process may include physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and psychological help and will normally involve a number of different experts.
The rehabilitation process will be individual to each person.
Organisations such as Connect or The Stroke Association can help explain the options and the help available to you.
More information on strokes can also be found on the NHS Choices and BBC Health websites.