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Spot The Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Monday, 19 October 2009

2,500 people die from stroke in Ireland every year. To put this into context, this is more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer combined. Today we'll be speaking about how to spot the signs and symptoms of stroke as some of the 2,500 deaths each year could be prevented if people recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and get to the hospital quickly.

How remembering the word "FAST" could save your own or a loved ones life!

Dr. Philip MacMahon, Afternoon Show Family Doctor
Born in Dublin and educated by the Jesuits in Gonzaga College Dublin, Dr. Philip went to college in UCD. Post graduate education was received in Scotland, New Zealand and Northern Ireland. Dr. Philip then practiced for two years in Strabane, Co. Tyrone before opening his own practice in Ranelagh Dublin, where he continues to practice today. Married to Rosemary who studied with him in UCD, they have practiced together in Ranelagh for many years.

The MacMahon doctors have five children, four girls, one boy, all but one married, with five grandchildren and two more on the way!! Their youngest daughter followed her parents into medicine and is presently studying pediatrics in Dublin. Their son is a sculptor in London one daughter is a full time mother in Manchester, another is studying for her PhD in UCD and the last one lives in Donegal and is an Arts Officer.

Professor Terence Dolan, Suffered A Stroke
Professor Terence Dolan is professor of English at UCD. Before that he was senior scholar at Oxford University. He is a regular contributor on The Moncrieff Show on Newstalk. He has also published a dictionary of Hiberno English and is currently writing a book on his experience of suffering a stroke.

Information below sourced from

Irish Heart Foundation, 1890432787

. 10,000 people suffer a stroke every year in Ireland
. Sadly, 2,500 of these die
. Stroke can happen to any age group, male of female
. Stroke kills more people in Ireland than breast cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer combined.
. Stroke is preventable, treatable and curable

What is a stroke and how is it caused?

The commonest form of stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain is suddenly clogged by a blood clot or some other particle. Because of this blockage, part of the brain doesn't get the flow of blood it needs. Without a proper flow of blood, part of the brain is deprived of oxygen, nerve cells in the affected area of the brain can't function and many die within minutes. When nerve cells can't function, the part of the body controlled by these cells stops working. The devastating effects of stroke often do not recover well because the dead brain cells aren't replaced.

There are four main types of stroke: two caused by blood clots or other particles, and two by brain hemorrhage. Cerebral thrombosis and cerebral embolism are by far the most common, accounting for about 70-80 percent of all strokes. They're both caused by clots or particles that plug an artery. Cerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhages are caused by ruptured blood vessels in the brain.

The easiest way to simplify the different types of stroke is to say that they fall into two categories. A clot and a bleed to the brain.

What are the main stroke warning signs / symptoms

The best way to understand the main warning signs and symptoms is to remember the acronym, F- A - S - T

Face - May experience facial paralysis. Ask person to smile, if their mouth is dropped down on one side then it can indicate a possible stroke.

Arms - Ask person to raise their arms. If they can't raise their arms to the same level or can only raise one arm then this is a sign that they may have suffered a stroke.

Speech - Ask person a few questions. If their speech is slurred or incoherent then this is a sign they have suffered a stroke.

Time - Get medical help immediately! Even if you're not too sure it's better to contact the emergency services.

Also if one gets into hospital within the first few hours they may be able to have a treatment done called Thrombolysis. Thrombolysis is a treatment to break up abnormal blood clots that are restricting blood flow. Stroke patients with a clot-type stroke (cerebral thrombosis) may benefit from thrombolysis. Optimal stroke care demands that patients suitable for thrombolysis should receive treatment within three hours of stroke onset. This treatment can greatly improve your chances of recovery.

What are the main stroke risk factors?
Several factors have been identified that increase the risk of stroke. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the risk that he or she will have a stroke. Some of these risk factors are inevitable, such as increasing age, others cannot be changed such as; family health history and gender. But you can change, treat or modify other factors to lower your risk. Factors resulting from lifestyle or environment can be modified to good effect.

These factors include;

. Increasing age
The chance of having a stroke more than doubles for each decade of life after age 55. While stroke is common among the elderly, substantial numbers of people under 65 also have strokes.

. High blood pressure
High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. In fact, stroke risk rises directly with higher blood pressure. Many people believe the effective treatment of high blood pressure is a key reason for the decline in the death rates for stroke. Make sure you ask your doctor questions and educate yourself about your blood pressure.

. Gender
Overall, men have about a 19 percent greater chance of stroke than women. Among people under age 65, the risk for men is even greater when compared to that of women.

. Heredity (family history)
The risk of stroke is greater in people who have a family history of stroke.

. Prior stroke
The risk of stroke for someone who has already had a stroke is many times that of a person who has never had a stroke.

. Cigarette smoking
In recent years studies have shown cigarette smoking to be an important risk factor for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the circulation system in many ways. The use of oral contraceptives combined with cigarette smoking greatly increases stroke risk. Smoke 20 cigarettes per day increases the risk of stroke six fold.

Heart disease risk factors are also related to Stroke,
Some heart disease risk factors are also risk factors for stroke. They raise the risk of stroke indirectly by increasing the risk of heart disease due to:

. High blood cholesterol
. Physical inactivity
. Being overweight

Effects of Stroke
The after effects of stroke range from very mild to severely devastating. Strokes affect different people in different ways, depending on the type of stroke, the area of the brain affected and the extent of the brain injury. Paralysis with weakness on one side of the body is a common after effect. Brain injury from a stroke can affect the senses of seeing and feeling, the ability to speak and understand speech, and less commonly behavioural patterns, thought patterns, memory and emotions."