We identify the main stroke symptoms and how you could reduce your risk of a stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the UK each year. There are over 100,000 incidences annually and 1.2 million stroke survivors living in the country.
Dr Emer MacSweeney, a leading expert in cognitive health, explains more about the causes of a stroke and how you could reduce your risk of a stroke.

What causes a stroke?

Strokes occur when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, depriving the brain cells of oxygen. This causes the brain cells to die. Functions controlled by that particular part of the brain e.g. muscle movement, vision, speech and memory are all lost as a result.

If a stroke occurs to the left side of the brain, the right side of the body will be affected and vice versa. Strokes can happen to people of all ages, contrary to the belief that young people are not affected.

Risk factors of a stroke

Risk factors which make people more susceptible to stroke include: high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, pregnancy, contraceptive pill, medication, migraine and smoking.

Ischaemic stroke

Ischaemic stroke is caused by a blockage which cuts off the blood supply to the brain. This may be caused by a blood clot in a blood vessel in the brain, or an artery leading to the brain.

If ischaemic stokes are treated within 2 hours, in an acute hospital specialist stroke unit, it may be possible to prevent permanent disability, or at least to lessen the extent of the stoke and its consequences.

Haemorrhagic stroke

Haemorrhagic stroke is not as common as an ischaemic stroke but can be more serious. This type of stroke is the result of a bleed into, or around the brain. It’s often caused when an artery inside your brain bursts. This may be caused by high blood pressure, a build-up of amyloid protein in the brain, an aneurysm (weak spot on the artery), recreational drug use or anticoagulant medication.

Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

A Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is a mini-stroke where symptoms last for a very short period of time. A full recovery is typically made. This is the result of transient interruption of blood flow to a small part of the brain. A TIA is often a warning that you are at risk of a much bigger and irreversible stroke. If you experience a TIA you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Re:Cognition Health’s tips for stroke prevention

The key to preventing a stroke is to take control of your health, maintain a healthy lifestyle and to address any potential risk factors.

How to reduce the risk of a stroke:

  • Consult with your GP to identify any health concerns such as: diabetes, obesity, migraine, blood pressure, cholesterol and genetic diseases.
  • Exercising regularly provides good blood flow to the brain and is thought to encourage brain cell growth and survival. Exercise vigorously three times a week for 20 minutes or moderately five times a week for 40 minutes to optimise health.
  • Maintain a healthy BMI. A BMI is used to estimate an individual’s total amount of body fat. Adults should have a BMI between 18.5-24.9 (there are some exceptions to the rule such as muscle mass, height, ethnicity etc).
  • Eat a balanced diet which is low in saturated fats and sugar, rich in nutrients from fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, proteins and essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6 found in oily fish, nuts and seeds).
  • Avoid excessive drinking, recreational drugs and smoking. All of these affect the blood supply to the brain.

Remember, what is good for the heart is good for the brain and this is the key to maintaining general health.

Stroke symptoms to look out for

There are a number of early warning signs of a stroke. If an individual is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s imperative you call 999 as soon as possible. The sooner they are treated the greater the chance of recovery, minimising long-term disability and reducing further brain damage. Early warning signs of stroke include:

  • One side of the face is drooping, feels numb or their smile is uneven
  • The individual experiences a sudden difficulty speaking, resulting in slurred words and you have trouble understanding them
  • Weakness or numbness in the arm or leg on one side of the body. The person will not be able to raise and hold their arms in the air
  • A sudden loss of vision or trouble seeing from one or both eyes
  • Sudden sense of dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • A severe headache that comes on suddenly with no warning or trigger

The team of expert consultant neurologists at Re:Cognition Health provide rapid and accurate diagnosis and rehabilitation and treatment plans for individuals who have suffered a stroke.


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