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How to spot the signs of a stroke

Strokes can occur suddenly, without warning. Learn to recognise the warning signs of a stroke and get medical attention as soon as possible.

April 28, 2021

Signs of a stroke

The 1st May marks the start of Action on Stroke Month. It aims to raise awareness of strokes and their impact on sufferers and their friends and families.

Action on Stroke Month also aims to educate the public on the signs and symptoms of strokes, what causes strokes, and what to do in the event of someone suffering a stroke.

Strokes are a medical emergency and can occur suddenly and without warning. The earlier medical treatment is given, the less damage is likely to be caused. Therefore it is important to be aware of the warning signs and act as quickly as possible if you suspect someone is having a stroke.

Lifestyle factors such as having high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, heavy drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise increase the risk of having a stroke.

The risk of a stroke increases with age, with the average age to experience a stroke being 74 for men and 80 for women.

In this guide, we discuss:

  • What a stroke is
  • Signs and symptoms of a stroke - Act F.A.S.T
  • How to reduce your risk of stroke
  • Where to get further help


What a stroke is

A stroke can be characterised as an attack on the brain whereby the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Blood supplies the brain with nutrients and oxygen and so, without blood, your brain cells can be damaged or killed.

There are actually three different types of stroke and these are;

  • An ischaemic stroke - the most common type of stroke, caused by a blockage that cuts off blood supply to the brain.
  • A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) - known as a mini-stroke. This is the same as an ischaemic stroke, however the symptoms only last for a short time as the blockage to the brain is temporary.
  • A haemorrhagic stroke - caused by a bleeding in or around the brain.


Act FAST - stroke prevention


Signs and symptoms of a stroke – Act F.A.S.T

The major symptoms of a stroke can easily be remembered with the acronym F.A.S.T

  • Face - You may see weakness or drooping on one side of the face and the person may be unable to smile.
  • Arms - They may be unable to raise hold both arms up due to weakness in one arm.
  • Speech – Slurred or garbled speech and difficulty understanding what you are saying to them.
  • Time – It’s time to call 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms of a stroke.


Preventing strokes

The risk of having a stroke is higher if you have already had a stroke or a TIA (transient ischaemic attack or mini-stroke). However there are still things you can do to reduce your risk of another stroke. 

  • Take prescribed medication - If you have a medical condition that is increasing your risk of stroke, make sure you take the medication you’re prescribed. Your GP can advise about any concerns you have with medication you are taking or if you are worried about side effects. Never stop taking your medication without talking to your GP first.
  • Regular check-ups – Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes can increase the risk of having a stroke. Regular check-ups can help to pick up on these conditions earlier and you can put preventative measures in place before things get worse.
  • Lifestyle changes - You can help to reduce your risk of a stroke by making some healthy lifestyle choices. You might consider cutting down on the amount of alcohol consumed, stop smoking, remaining active and eating a balanced diet as these can all have a positive impact on your overall health, as well as reducing your risk of having a stroke.
  • Consider a personal alarm – A personal alarm is a wearable SOS button that you can press to get help in the event of an emergency. Whilst a personal alarm will not prevent a stroke, it can enable you to get help quicky and easily in the event of one occurring. The faster you get help when having a stroke, the lower the likelihood of serious complications occurring.

We offer a wide range of personal alarms to suit your unique lifestyle. All of our alarms are connected 24/7 to our award-winning Emergency Resolution team.


Taking Care's award winning service

Find out more about Taking Care's award winning personal alarm service for the elderly.

Personal alarms for the elderly

Where to get further help

  • NHS: a guide for people about strokes, including information about diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of strokes
  • Stroke Association: Help and support for stroke survivors and their family members.

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