When stroke strikes act FAST

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in the UK. Each year, 150,000 people have a stroke and of those, 67,000 people die. Stroke can happen to anyone, young or old, at any time. In fact, 25 per cent of people who have a stroke are under retirement age.

Stroke is an attack on the brain. It spreads like fire, rapidly damaging brain cells. Like a fire, stroke must be treated as an emergency. The faster you recognise stroke and react to it, the more of the brain you can save.

Natalie Ellis, 41, from Leigh-on-Sea was at work when she suddenly felt her hands and toes go numb and her vision blurred.

‘My heart was pulsating and I was sweaty and clammy. I felt heavy and my fingers and toes on the right side of my body seemed to go numb. I was desperate to get outside, to gulp down fresh air, but I couldn’t move. I knew, even if I managed to stand up, I wouldn’t make it to the door.’

The Department of Health is launching a three-year ?12 million awareness campaign to help the public to recognise the signs of stroke, using a simple test called FAST:

– Facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
– Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?
– Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
– Time to call 999 – if the person shows any one of these signs, call an ambulance.

Using a series of adverts on TV, radio, in print and online, the campaign will help people learn FAST and understand that prompt emergency treatment can dramatically increase the chances of survival and reduces the risk of disability.

Luckily for Natalie, a colleague recognised the signs of stroke and got her to hospital within half an hour where she was treated quickly and made a full recovery.

‘I still get forgetful sometimes but I’m one of the lucky ones, I was treated quickly. If more people recognised the signs of stroke, then more stroke survivors would be as lucky as I am.’

Improving public awareness of the signs of stroke is a key element of the Government’s National Stroke Strategy, published in December 2007.

Stroke is the single largest cause of adult disability in England. The term ‘stroke’ describes a loss of brain function due to a blood clot or bleed in the brain. Direct stroke care costs the NHS ?2.8 billion a year, and the wider economy a further ?1.8 billion in income and productivity losses as a result of disability.

Professor Roger Boyle, National Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, said:

“Stroke spreads like a fire in the brain – the sooner you get to treatment and put the fire out, the less damage is caused to the brain.

“The faster a stroke patient receives emergency treatment, the better their chances are of surviving and avoiding long-term disability.”

Source: Department of Health, UK, UK

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