Stroke claims the lives of 1,300 people every year in Northern Ireland; it is the third most common cause of death and the greatest cause of adult disability. Stroke is caused by a reduction in the blood supply to the brain.
On World Stroke Day (29 October 2011), the Public Health Agency (PHA) is highlighting that many strokes can be prevented if the risk factors for stroke are treated effectively.
Last year there were 2,300 emergency admissions to hospital for stroke. Of these, 39% had high blood pressure, 21% an irregular heartbeat, 20% suffered from heart disease and 16% had diabetes. Many strokes can be prevented through intensive treatment of these risk factors and through lifestyle changes:
- If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension), attend your GP regularly to make sure it is well-controlled
- An irregular heartbeat can cause symptoms like palpitations (heart beating fast), breathlessness, chest pain or fatigue – or it may cause no symptoms. It can be diagnosed by a doctor or nurse by checking your pulse. If your pulse is irregular, the doctor or nurse will organise tests to confirm the diagnosis
- If you smoke, seek help to stop now (visit www.want2stop.info )
- Limit alcohol consumption (men: no more than three to four units of alcohol a day and no more than 21 units over the course of the week. Women: no more than two to three units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units over the course of the week).
- Keep your weight within the normal range for your height – eat a healthy diet (visit www.enjoyhealthyeating.info).
- Be physically active and exercise regularly (30 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking, cycling or gardening, five days a week).
Research shows that awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke, and what action to take, is low among the general population. This is why the PHA is continuing to drive home its stroke awareness campaign which is designed to inform the public about F.A.S.T. – Face, Arm, Speech, and Time to call 999:
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 – Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs.
Dr Brid Farrell, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, PHA, said: “Stroke is a serious illness, but we can reduce the chances of it occurring through effective treatment of risk factors when they are present and promoting healthy lifestyles in the general population.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots stressed the seriousness of stroke and the importance of people being aware of the signs and symptoms. He said: “Stroke can have a major and often devastating effect on everyone it touches, including the individual their families and carers. It is the third main cause of death in adults in Northern Ireland and is the single greatest cause of adult disability.
“It is absolutely vital that people are aware of the early signs and symptoms of stroke. Quick diagnoses and treatment for stroke saves lives and dramatically increases quality of life for many sufferers.”
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
The term ‘stroke’ describes a loss of brain function due to an interruption to the blood supply to the brain by a blood clot or bleed in the brain.