If you experience sudden facial weakness, weakness in the arm, problems with your speech, or difficulty understanding what someone else is saying to you, it is possible you could be experiencing a Cerebrovascular Accident, commonly known as a stroke. Other symptoms may include dizziness or confusion, difficulty swallowing, or the loss of movement to one side of the body.
According to the Stroke Association, "stroke occurs approximately 152,000 times a year in the UK". Even though older people are more at risk, nearly a third of strokes happen to those people under the age of 65 and, although rare, stroke can even occur in children and babies.
A stroke is a very serious, and potentially life threatening, medical condition which requires urgent treatment to limit any possible damage, and if you believe that either you or someone else is having a stroke, you should dial 999 immediately and request an ambulance. Sometimes the symptoms may disappear before the ambulance arrives, but you still need to go to hospital to be assessed, since you may have experienced a transient ischaemic attack, also known as a mini-stroke.
Ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke are the two major types of Cerebrovascular Accident.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and is caused by a blockage in an artery that leads to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain, damaging surrounding brain tissue. This is the most serious type of stroke.
Certain medical conditions may increase your risk of having a stroke. These medical conditions include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, and diabetes. To reduce the risk of stroke, these conditions need to be regularly monitored and treated. Similarly, some lifestyle factors also play a part in increasing the risk of having a stroke. They include smoking, a poor diet, obesity, not taking enough exercise, and exceeding the recommended safe limits of alcohol.
Treatment for Cerebrovascular Accident depends on the type of stroke you experienced. In the case of ischemic stroke, medication is usually administered to get rid of any blood clots or to prevent any new blood clots from forming. Medication may also be given to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol in the blood. Hemorrhagic strokes may be treated with medication but, in some instances, surgery may be necessary "to treat brain swelling and reduce the risk of further bleeding".
Following a Cerebrovascular Accident, rehabilitation is often required to improve quality of life and independence. This could include physiotherapy, speech therapy, or consultations with a dietician who can give nutritional advice to ensure you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Occupational therapists, and specialist nurses and doctors, could also be involved in your rehabilitation.
Although the risk of Cerebrovascular Accident cannot be totally eliminated, there are ways to reduce the risk. To reduce your chances of a stroke, you should eat a healthy, balanced diet, ensure you take regular exercise, reduce your salt intake, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
In 2009, Public Health England launched the Act FAST campaign, which aims to save lives by making people aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke and what to do if this medical emergency is suspected.