HEALTH: World Stroke Day

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Strokes claim the lives of 1,300 people in Northern Ireland every year. It is the third most common cause of death and the greatest cause of adult disability.

On World Stroke Day (29 October) the Public Health Agency (PHA) aims to help people reduce their risk of having a stroke and to ‘think FAST’ if they see someone having a stroke.

Dr Brid Farrell, Consultant in Service Development & Screening at the PHA, said: “Stroke is an attack on the brain. It happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off and brain cells are damaged or die. Your chances of having a stroke reduce if you understand the risks and take action to prevent a stroke happening.”

You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by:

knowing and managing your personal risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol;

exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight;

reducing alcohol consumption;

stopping smoking.

“However, if the worst does happen and someone has a stroke, knowing the signs and symptoms and acting FAST can improve the chances of survival and reduce the level of disability that results from a stroke.”

The PHA’s FAST campaign, which raises public awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke and actions to take if you think someone is having one, was launched in 2011. Its aim is to increase awareness of stroke symptoms in an easy to remember way:

Face – Has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?

Arms – Can they raise both arms and keep them there?

Speech – Is their speech slurred?

Time – Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs.

Dr Farrell continued: “Stroke is still one of the biggest causes of death and disability in Northern Ireland. It is important that everyone knows and manages their risk factors for stroke, so that we can prevent strokes happening and also that we recognise the signs of stroke and take appropriate action.

“It is vital that anyone who has a stroke is assessed medically as quickly as possible. Calling an ambulance and getting to hospital quickly can make a big difference to the damage caused by stroke.”