A stroke is a brain attack. It happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. It can be caused by a blockage in one of the blood vessels leading to the brain or by a bleed in the brain itself. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to your brain. Without the supply of blood to your brain, cells can be damaged or may die.
Strokes affect people in different ways, depending on the part of the brain that is affected, how widespread the damage is and how healthy the person was before the stroke. A stroke can affect the way your body functions as well as your thought processes and how you feel and communicate.
A stroke can also have an emotional impact and can cause problems such as anxiety, depression or changes to your personality.
As we age, our arteries become harder and narrower. Also certain medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and lifestyle factors such as diet, drinking alcohol and smoking, can increase your risk of having a stroke.
High blood pressure, defined as a reading of 140/90 or greater, is the leading risk factor for stroke. When blood pushes too forcefully against the walls of the arteries, it can weaken them and eventually lead to stroke. Adults should strive to keep their blood pressure below 140/90. An optimal reading is 120/80 or lower.1
According to the Stroke Association there are about 152,000 strokes every year in the UK. At least 40 percent of these could be avoided if high blood pressure is controlled. It’s the single biggest controllable risk factor for stroke, yet many of us do not know what our blood pressure measurement is or what it means. However, with a “Clinically Validated”* blood pressure monitor from OMRON, measuring your blood pressure can be done simply and accurately in the comfort of your own home. This will help you to take control of your health.
There are also key risk factors to high blood pressure that we can control through changes in our lifestyle, including:
The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person but usually begin suddenly.
Recommended by the Stroke Association, the FAST test (Face, Arms, Speech, Time to call 999) identifies the most common symptoms of a stroke or TIA.
Face Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?
ArmsCan the person raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?
Time If you see any one of these signs, it’s time to call 999. Stroke is always a medical emergency that required immediate medical attention.
It is important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms. If you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure, being aware of the symptoms is even more important.
Recognising the signs of stroke and calling 999 for an ambulance is crucial. The quicker a patient arrives at a specialist stroke unit, the quicker they will receive appropriate treatment and the more likely they are to make a better recovery. If you suspect a stroke, always dial 999.
Omron supports the Stroke Association (registered charity in England and Wales No 211015 and Scotland SCO37789) in the prevention of stroke. Visit stroke.org.uk or call the Stroke Helpline 0303 3033 100 for further information about stroke.
¹Mancia et al, (2013). 2013 ESH/ESC Guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension. (2013). Journal of Hypertension, 31:1281-1357.