National Stroke Awareness Month
This May is the annual National Stroke Awareness Month. A stroke, otherwise known as a brain attack, happens when the supply of blood to the brain is disrupted. When this happens the brain is starved of oxygen causing temporary or permanent loss of function in the affected part of the brain. The blood flow is typically disrupted by either a blocked or a burst blood vessel.
In the UK Strokes are the third most common cause of death (First Aid Manual, 10th Edition) and those lucky enough to survive can often be left with long term disability. Surviving a stroke can often come down to the speed with which a first aider can recognise the symptoms. This is where the F.A.S.T. guide comes into play. F.A.S.T. stands for Face – Arms – Speech – Time and is a simple way for first aiders to remember the four necessary steps in checking whether a casualty is suffering from a stroke:
Face – Ask the casualty to smile. If they have had a stroke they may only be able to smile on one side of the face. The other half may be droopy.
Arms – Ask the casualty to raise both arms into the air. A stroke may result in the casualty only being able to lift one arm.
Speech – Ask the casualty questions to ascertain how well they can respond to you. If the casualty cannot speak clearly or does not understand your questions this is another indicator.
Time – Call 999/112 for emergency help. Tell the call handler that the FAST guide has been used and the casualty has had a suspected stroke.
There are also other signs of a stroke which include blurred vision, general confusion, a severe headache and dizziness / unsteadiness. As a first aider your job doesn’t end once the emergency services have been called. Until help arrives it is then important to keep the casualty, comfortable, reassure them that help is coming and regularly monitor vital signs. It is also important to note the casualty should not be given food or water at any stage.
This video by the Scottish Health Charity ‘Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’ helps to reinforce the various elements which make up F.A.S.T. and could prove a valuable aid memoir for any first aiders within your organisation.
Strokes can affect anyone and not just older people. A recent study by The Stroke Association found that 26% of people who have a stroke are under the age of 65. With this in mind we can all do more to reduce our chances of suffering from a stroke. The Stroke Association advise six simple measures to reduce an individual’s risk.
1. Manage your medical conditions via regular check-ups and ensuring any medication you are prescribed is taken correctly
2. Stop Smoking
3. Reduce alcohol consumption
4. Maintain a healthy weight
5. Exercise more
6. Eat a healthy and balanced diet
For more detail on the six points above we thoroughly recommend visiting The Stroke Association website.