May is Stroke Awareness Month in the UK, raising awareness of the symptoms and the importance of acting quickly when you spot one of the signs.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of adult disability in the UK, and two-thirds of people who survive find themselves living with a disability.
The NHS in Lancashire and South Cumbria is aiming to reduce the amount of time between someone having a stroke and arriving at hospital by highlighting stroke as a medical emergency and urging people to call 999 as soon as they notice one of the signs.
Earlier this year, NHS England, in association with the Stroke Association, relaunched the Act F.A.S.T. campaign, which has run for more than a decade, providing a simple test to help people identify the most common signs of a stroke.
You are urged to “Think and Act F.A.S.T.” if you see any single one of these signs of somebody having a stroke:
- Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
- Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
- Speech – is their speech slurred?
- Time – even if you’re not sure, call 999.
Some other signs that may be due to a stroke or mini stroke include: sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes; sudden weakness or numbness on one side of your body (including in your leg); sudden memory loss or confusion; sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially with any of the other signs.
Catherine Curley, clinical director of Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Stroke and Neurorehabilitation Delivery Network, said: “The F.A.S.T. campaign has been very successful in helping people remember the signs of a stroke to look out for and recognise that it requires immediate attention as every minute is vital.
“People aged 50 and upwards are more likely to experience a stroke, and around 100,000 people have strokes each year in the UK. Spotting the signs early can give stroke patients those extra precious minutes, enabling faster access to specialist treatment, which could reduce the long-term effects such as a disability.”
The relaunched F.A.S.T. campaign also includes specific activity targeted at ethnic minorities. Stroke disproportionately affects some groups, with black people being twice as likely to have a stroke than white people. On average, people of Black African, Black Caribbean and South Asian descent in the UK have strokes when they are younger.
High blood pressure, diabetes and sickle cell are significant risk factors that can contribute to increasing the likelihood of having a stroke, and there is a high prevalence of these diseases in Black and South Asian communities. In addition to this, there are often cultural, religious and language barriers preventing these groups from seeking medical advice early.
The web page for the campaign is nhs.uk/actfast