What is a stroke?
A stroke happens when the blood supply to your brain is cut off, which causes a clot or bleeding.
Strokes are the third biggest killer in the UK and survivors can be left with long-term difficulties, such as problems with speaking or walking, although thousands do make a good recovery. The best way to reduce the impact a stroke has is to spot the signs early and get treatment as quickly as possible.
Is a mini stroke similar?
A mini stroke, which you might also hear called a transient ischaemic attack or a TIA, is a temporary kind of stroke. The blood supply to your brain is also cut off, like in a full stroke, but for a shorter time.
A mini stroke is often a warning sign that you may be about to have a full stroke in the next few days unless you get treatment, so it’s not to be ignored.
How do I spot the signs of a stroke?
Try to remember this acronym, FAST, which means you should act quickly if you spot any one of these signs:
- Face: Can the person smile? Has their face dropped on one side?
- Arms: Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
- Speech: Is their speech slurred? Can they understand what you’re saying?
- Time to act- call 999 right away
Other symptoms that people might experience when they’re having a stroke or mini-stroke include:
- Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both of your eyes
- Weakness or feeling numb on one side of your body
- Sudden memory loss or confusion
- Dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially when accompanies with any of the other symptoms
Even if these symptoms disappear after a while, still seek help, as this may be a sign of a mini-stroke, which needs urgent treatment.
How can I cut my risk of stroke?
Keeping healthy is one of the best ways of warding off a stroke since high blood pressure, being overweight and smoking and drinking are some of the biggest factors in upping your stroke risk.
- Get moving- A large study from the University of Alabama, US, found exercising four or more times a week cut could your stroke risk by 20 per cent. Try to find activities you enjoy, whether it’s Zumba, tennis or swimming (but do check with your doctor before starting a regime if you’re not used to exercise).
- Eat right- A Mediterranean diet has been found to be most effective for reducing stroke risk. Base your diet around fish, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and olive oil, with some dairy produce. Cut down on sugary fatty foods too.
- Slash your salt- High levels of salt can raise your blood pressure- one of the leading risk factors for a stroke. One of the best ways to do this is to cut down on processed foods such as ready meals and sauces.
- Beat bad habits- If you smoke, it’s crucial to quit. Research shows you’re four times more likely to stop with NHS help, so speak to your GP first. And try to cut down on alcohol too- women shouldn’t regularly drink more than two to three units a day. One unit is equal to a small glass of wine or single measure of spirits.
You can find more information on strokes and mini-strokes here.
There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.