A stroke happens when the blood supply to your brain is cut off. If your brain doesn't get enough blood to provide the oxygen and nutrients it needs, your brain cells will become damaged or die.
Every year in the UK, around 150,000 people have a stroke. It's the third most common cause of death in the UK, and also the leading cause of severe disability .
Most people who have a stroke are over 65, but many are younger than this. Anyone can have a stroke, including babies and children.
A stroke is a medical emergency, so recognising the symptoms quickly and getting treatment in hospital as soon as possible is very important.
Symptoms of stroke
The symptoms of stroke vary depending on what type you have and the part of your brain it affects. Symptoms usually come on suddenly, within seconds or minutes.
A good way to recognise if someone has had a stroke is to use the ‘FAST’ test. FAST stands for:
- Time to call 999
This involves checking for any one of the three main symptoms of stroke – facial weakness, arm weakness or speech problems. If you notice that someone has one or more of these symptoms, you should call for emergency help straight away.
Prevention of stroke
You can take steps to lower your risk of stroke by making changes to your lifestyle. Some examples are listed below.
- Stop smoking. This can greatly reduce your risk of stroke, no matter how old you are or how long you have been smoking.
- Don’t exceed the recommended alcohol limits. By cutting down the amount of alcohol you drink, you can reduce your blood pressure, which in turn lowers your risk of stroke.
- Improve your diet. Reducing how much cholesterol and salt you eat can lower your risk of stroke.
- Increase the amount of physical activity that you do – aim to do some every day. The recommended healthy level of physical activity is 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more.