A stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.
There are approximately 152,000 strokes in the UK each year, and at least 1 in 4 happen to someone of working age or younger.There are two main causes of strokes:
There is also a related condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing a "mini-stroke" often lasting between 30 minutes and several hours. TIA’s should be treated seriously as they are often a warning sign that you are at risk of having a full stroke in the near future.
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease. Such things as smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, poor diet or exceeding recommended daily alcohol limit can all increase the chances of having a stroke. If you suffer from such conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation or diabetes, then these can also put you in a higher risk group of having a stroke. The injury to the brain caused by a stroke can lead to widespread and long-lasting problems. It can affect how your body works, how you learn and communicate. The effects of a stroke depend on the area of the brain affected, how severe the damage is and your health before the stroke.
Effective treatment of strokes can prevent long term disability and save lives. Treatment depends on which type of stroke has occurred:-
Ischaemic- a combination of medicines are used to treat and prevent the condition such as: anti-platelet drugs, anti-coagulants, statins, and/or anti-hypertensives. Thrombolysis using alteplase is used within 4.5 hours of stroke occurring-this can dissolve the blood clot and restore flow of blood to the brain.
Haemorrhagic: - medication to lower blood pressure. Possible surgery.
Although some people may recover quite quickly, many people who have a stroke will need long-term support to help them manage any difficulties they have and regain as much independence as possible. Tiredness, depression or anxiety can be a common effect of stroke.
This process of rehabilitation will be specific to you, and will depend on your symptoms and their severity. It will often start while you are still in hospital and will continue at home or at a local clinic in your community once you are well enough to leave.
A team of specialists are available to help with your rehabilitation, including physiotherapists,psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and specialist nurses and doctors.You will be encouraged to actively participate in the rehabilitation process and will work with your care team to set goals you want to achieve during your recovery.
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