Stroke Awareness

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May is Action on Stroke month and with so many people now living with the effects of a stroke, we thought we’d offer you some further information about the symptoms of strokes, how to prevent them and how to deal with a stroke affecting yourself or a family member.

Strokes can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time and the impact can last a lifetime. More than 1.2 million people are currently living with the long lasting effects of a stroke on their health and wellbeing.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, either temporarily or over a longer period of time. They are a medical emergency and you should seek treatment as soon as possible. The sooner treatment is received, the better the chance of a good recovery.

The best way to remember the symptoms of a stroke is ‘F.A.S.T’:

  • FACE — has the person’s face dropped on one side? They may not be able to smile, or part of their mouth or eye may have dropped.
  • ARMS — can they lift their arms and hold them there?
  • SPEECH — is their speech slurred? They may appear to be awake yet they can’t talk.
  • TIME — Don’t waste time — Call 999 immediately!

You could alert yourself to your own risk of a stroke, our Health Cash Plan offers a Health Screening benefit, which can measure your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure, alerting you to any problems you may have so you can get treatment early.

There are a lot of ways you can further reduce your chances of suffering from a stroke, whilst there are also people who are at more of a risk than others.

Conditions that increase your chances of having a stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat)
  • Diabetes
  • Age (those over 55 have an increased risk)

Improve your chance of avoiding a stroke by:

  • Not smoking
  • Exercising
  • Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy BMI
  • Drinking in moderation
  • Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol

It is traumatic for anyone to suffer a stroke and distressing for their families and loved ones too. People may feel alone and helpless having lost their independence, they may be in shock, angry, depressed and anxious. It takes time and patience to adjust to the effects of a stroke but it can be done and it is possible to continue to live a good quality of life — you just need the right help.

Sometimes, the physical recovery is quicker than the emotional one. This is where the journey gets harder and it affects and challenges everyone differently. Questions of how their life will change, whether they’ll be able to work and whether they will return to how they were before will be circling in the heads of sufferers and the key to coping is acceptance that these feelings are normal and then starting down the road to getting help. More than half of stroke survivors have reported suffering with depression in the first year after their stroke. Therefore, getting help as soon as possible is vital. Talk to a doctor, a relative or a stroke support group — there is more help available than you think.

Stroke recovery

Unfortunately, not everyone who suffers a stroke survives. It is a daunting fact. Often, those that do survive are left with lifelong problems, but there are those who can make a good recovery with little effect on their daily life.

Rehabilitation may continue for a long period of time, not just in recovery from the immediate problems people can be left with but also in adjusting to living with the effects of a stroke. Many people need to re-learn skills for everyday life like talking, dressing or washing, local authorities should be able to help provide this. Some survivors may require surgery to reduce the chances of developing a blood clot and reduce the risk of further strokes.

The early days of recovery are always the hardest and most emotional. They will require major adjustments from everyone, but it’s important to know that there is help available.

The recovery timeline depends on the survivor, it all comes down to age and the severity of the stroke and it can take anything up to a year, but is more commonly six months. There are some survivors who can make a nearly full recovery whilst others will be left with significant problems even after rehabilitation.

Suffering from a stroke has a substantial impact on a person’s life, but there are ways to prevent it from controlling your life completely. Recovery is a journey but you are not alone.