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PHE Stroke 2018EL
Think Stroke? Act F.A.S.T could save a life
01 February 2018

Acting F.A.S.T. as soon as stroke symptoms present themselves can not only save lives but improve the chances of making a good recovery. 

A stroke is known as a ‘brain attack’ and there are over 100,000 strokes every year in the UK, causing over 40,000 deaths. When someone suffers a stroke, the blood supply to part of the brain cuts off. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention as every minute is vital. 

The annual Act F.A.S.T. campaign re-launches today giving people an important reminder of the need to act quickly and call 999 at any sign of a stroke. The F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) acronym is a simple test to help people identify the most common signs of a stroke and what to look out for in themselves and in others:

  • Face – has their face dropped on one side? Can they smile?
  • Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech – is their speech slurred or garbled?
  • Time to call 999 

Jeannine Johnson, Consultant Nurse and Lead Clinician at Isle of Wight NHS Trust for Stroke Services on the Island, said: “The risk of stroke is far more common as we get older and we are seeing this on the Island, with 25-30% of the Island’s population being over 65yrs. It is important that risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and any heart problems such as atrial fibrillation are closely monitored. 

“But it is not just over 65yrs, we are also seeing a lot more young people experience stroke, which is a real concern. This is sometimes due to lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and taking drugs like cocaine. These are all things which, if identified early on, we can offer advice and support to help people avoid the risks. This is where the NHS Health Checks for people aged between 40-75yrs are so important in identifying risk factors.” 

Other symptoms that people should be aware of as these may occasionally be due to stroke or a mini stroke include: 

  • Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion
  • Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially with any of the other symptoms

The Island has a comprehensive stroke service which includes the recently opened Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) within the stroke unit, giving high dependency care to all stroke patients within the first 72 hours of their stroke.  All patients diagnosed with a stroke are transferred to the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) within four (4) hours for specialist care.

Jeannine Johnson, continued: "The Hyper Acute Stroke Unit has certainly made a difference in enabling our stroke patients to get to the right place at the right time and speed is of the essence. Thrombolysis, which is a treatment to dissolve dangerous clots in blood vessels, improve blood flow, and prevent damage to tissues and organs, needs to be administered within three hours of the first symptoms of stroke. Unfortunately it cannot be given to everyone but even for the people who are not eligible for thrombolysis, we still need them to act quickly if they develop signs of a stroke and remember F.A.S.T to minimise any possible long term damage caused. We are continuing to look at other treatments which we can give to minimise the damage of stroke.”

The stroke service also helps patients to leave hospital sooner by continuing their treatment where they are living. The Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team (CRST) which include nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians, occupational therapists, support workers and speech and language therapists, can provide help and advice on a whole range of areas and work closely with adult social services and the Stroke Association to provide an effective service on the Island.

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