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Spotting the signs of a stroke and acting fast

Would you know what to do if you, or someone near you, were having a stroke? Here’s our guide on how to spot the signs.

More than 100,000 strokes occur in the UK each year, which works out at about one every five minutes. Getting help quickly is crucial to survival and recovery. So how can you spot the signs straight away?

Spotting the early signs of a stroke using the FAST test

Public Health England’s FAST campaign is raising public awareness to help people identify when someone has a stroke and act quickly. Doing the FAST test is a simple, easy-to-remember way to tell whether someone may be having a stroke. To do the FAST test, check for:

F-Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?

A - Arm Weakness: Can the person raise both arms and keep them up?

S - Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?

T - Time to call 999. If the person fails any one of these tests, get help immediately by dialling 9992.

The NHS also uses the FAST test to recognise the signs of stroke and act quickly. It’s important that everyone knows it, “particularly 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".

Other stroke symptoms

  • Feeling suddenly weak or numb on one side of the body
  • Finding it difficult to speak all of a sudden
  • Sudden loss of vision, or getting blurred vision
  • Suddenly experience a severe headache
  • Having difficulty understanding what other are saying suddenly
  • Losing consciousness suddenly

Stroke treatment: What action should I take?

Call an ambulance immediately if you think that you, or someone else, is having a stroke. It is important to go to hospital even if the stroke symptoms disappear before the ambulance arrives, so that the right assessment can be carried out.

Getting treatment quickly is vital to making a good recovery from a stroke, which is why it is so important to recognise the signs and respond immediately.

What is a mini stroke?

TIA stands for transient ischaemic attack, and is sometimes referred to as a mini stroke. The symptoms are the same, but only last between a few minutes and a few hours, before they disappear.

If you experience the symptoms of a stroke and they improve, it is vital that you visit your GP or hospital as soon as possible. TIA  is a sign that there is an issue with the blood supply to your brain, and means you are at a much higher risk of having a stroke in the near future2.

Arrythmias are the leading cause of atrial fibrillation-related stroke

Cardiac arrhythmia is a condition where the heart’s rhythm is too slow, too fast, or irregular. It covers various conditions, including fainting (syncope), reflex anoxic seizures, palpitations, sudden cardiac arrest, and atrial fibrillation. The latter is the most common arrhythmia in the UK, affecting more than 1.5 million people. It is the leading cause of AF-related stroke. In such cases, a clot forms from the erratic rhythm of the heart, and travels to the brain.

Artrial fibrillation can be treated via cardiothoracic surgery. You can find more information about cardiology on our website, here.

Tests, treatment and stroke recovery

Once a stroke victim has been taken to hospital, doctors will carry out a series of tests, including brain scans, to identify the cause and nature of the stroke, as well as the best course of emergency treatment. 

Every stroke is different, and the nature and seriousness of it will be a factor in how long your stay in hospital and overall recovery is. This may range from a few days to a few months, during which time you may either be in a stroke ward or rehabilitation ward.

If you think you may be in a higher risk group for having a stroke, we would advise booking an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.