National Stroke Awareness Week is an annual campaign run by the Irish Heart Foundation. This year it runs from the 23rd to the 28th of April, with events taking place across the country to raise awareness about stroke prevention, how to recognise a stroke and the realities of life after suffering a stroke.
What exactly is stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted or reduced. This deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients, which causes brain cells to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost. How a person is affected by their stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.
Can stroke be prevented?
Stroke can happen at any age, however two thirds of strokes happen in people over the age of sixty-five. Your risk of having a stroke is increased by certain things which you cannot change, such as your age, gender, family history and if you suffer from certain other medical conditions. However, your risk of having a stroke is increased by certain things in your lifestyle which you can change such as:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Poor Diet
- High Alcohol Consumption
- Physical Inactivity
Think F.A.S.T, act fast
A stroke is always a medical emergency. Every minute matters as stroke destroys two million brain cells per minute. So the longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the chance of stroke related brain damage. Therefore, the Irish Heart foundation recommends the following F.A.S.T. test as an easy way to recognise and remember the common signs of stroke:
- Face – Check their face, has their face fallen on one side?
- Arms – Can they lift both arms?
- Speech – Has their speech become slurred?
- Time – Time to call 999 if you see any of these signs.
Most people have been affected, whether it be directly or indirectly by stroke. In Ireland, as of 2016, approximately 10,000 people have a stroke related event annually, around 2,000 of these result in death, around 7,000 acute hospital admissions and upwards of 30,000 people living in the community with disabilities as a result of a stroke. As a result, increasing awareness on lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of stroke, along with increasing awareness on how to recognise a stroke has become more important than ever.
For more information on stroke or heart disease in Ireland, see the Irish Heart Foundation website or contact the National Heart & Stroke Helpline Nurses at 1800-25-25-50.