Q&A: What happens during a stroke?

Footballer Matt Gilks joined a campaign to promote the FAST stroke awareness campaign which is promoting the message a stroke is a medical emergency and people should think FAST and call 999.
Footballer Matt Gilks joined a campaign to promote the FAST stroke awareness campaign which is promoting the message a stroke is a medical emergency and people should think FAST and call 999.
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The number of younger people suffering strokes has rocketed in recent years as people lead increasingly sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles, a charity has warned. Here is some more information about stroke.

Q: What is a stroke?

A: A stroke happens as a result of the blood supply to the brain being cut off, leading to brain cells beginning to die. Symptoms of stoke usually consist of numbness, loss of vision, confusion, difficulty speaking, severe headache and dizziness.

The main signs and what to do if they are suspected can be remembered by the acronym FAST, which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time:

Face - the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped.

Arms - the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech - their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.

Time - it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

Q: What causes it to happen?

A: The most common type is an ischaemic stroke, which happens in around 85% of cases and is when the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot. A haemorrhagic stroke is when a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.

People can also have a mini-stroke, known as a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA). This take places when the brain is temporarily deprived of oxygen and a person feels symptoms for just a few minutes. No permanent damage usually occurs but it can mean the person has a 20% risk of suffering a full stroke within a month.

Q: Who is most likely to suffer a stroke?

A: Most people who experience a stroke are over the age of 65 but, as the Stroke Association has warned, rates have soared amongst working age people in recent years. Even children and babies can suffer one.

Stroke is the third biggest cause of death in the UK. Each year more than 110,000 people in England will suffer a stroke and more than 250,000 people live with disabling conditions - brain injuries caused by strokes are the largest single cause of severe disability in the UK.

Q: What can I do to lower the risk of stroke?

A: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of a stroke. By keeping blood pressure low, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and taking regular exercise, the risk of stroke can be dramatically lowered.

Q: How are people treated?

A: Around one in four people who suffer a stroke will die. Those who survive will often have to undergo a long process of rehabilitation as they are likely to have difficulty moving their facial muscles and limbs.

Problems with speech and swallowing can be major issue in the initial stages of recovery, and patients will often undergo physiotherapy. Stroke can also have a severe psychological impact on people as they find they cannot use their body as they used to be able to. Some people will make a full recovery, but others will have to live with disability.

Campaigners warn over surge in strokes in working age people