In the UK, on average, someone has a stroke every five minutes. And, while most people who have a stroke are older, younger people can have strokes too. Indeed, the Stroke Association says that 1 in 4 strokes in the UK happens to people of working age.
With 100,000 people suffering a stroke each year, it’s important to understand:
- What a stroke is
- How to spot the signs early
- How you can reduce the risk of a stroke
- How you can protect yourself.
Considering also that there are 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK, ensuring you have the protection in place to support you if you are affected by this condition can also provide genuine peace of mind.
Read on to find out what you need to know.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted
A stroke, also known as a “cerebrovascular accident” (CVA), occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. This deprives your brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients and can cause brain cells to die or be damaged.
There are three main types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked by a clot or other obstruction
- Haemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or leaks
- A transient ischaemic attack or TIA (sometimes known as a “mini-stroke”). It is the same as a stroke, except that the symptoms only last for a short amount of time. This is because the blockage that stops the blood getting to your brain is temporary.
The effects of a stroke depend on where it takes place in the brain, and how big the damaged area is.
How to spot the signs of a stroke
A stroke can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time. It's always a medical emergency, and so it’s vital to know how to spot the signs of a stroke in yourself or someone else.
The FAST test can help you to recognise the most common signs of a stroke:
- F – Facial weakness. Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye dropped?
- A – Arm weakness. Can the person raise both arms?
- S – Speech problems. Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
- T – Time to call 999 if you see any of these signs.
Acting FAST will give the person having a stroke the best chance of survival and recovery. Paramedics are trained in how to deal with a stroke and will ensure the patient receives emergency medical care and specialist treatment.
Other symptoms of stroke include:
- Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet
- A sudden, severe headache
- Sudden memory loss or confusion
- Dizziness or a sudden fall
- Difficulty in finding words or speaking in clear sentences
- Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes.
Ensuring the patient gets treatment as soon as possible can boost their chances of a more positive outcome. So, if you spot any of these signs, call 999 immediately.
7 ways to reduce the risk of having a stroke
As you get older, your arteries become harder and narrower, making them more likely to become blocked. However, there are several ways you can reduce your chances of having a stroke.
1. Get a regular check-up
If you're over 40, having a regular check-up with your GP can help to pick up on any problems.
2. Stop smoking
The Stroke Association say that smoking doubles your risk of dying from a stroke. However, the moment you quit, your risk of a stroke starts to drop right away.
Stopping smoking isn’t easy, but it’s likely to be one of the best things you ever do for your health.
3. Take any medication you’re prescribed
If you have a medical condition that increases your stroke risk, make sure you take the medication your GP has prescribed.
Never stop taking your medication without talking to your GP first.
4. Stay active
If you are physically active it can help to reduce your risk of a stroke.
5. Eat healthily
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to lower your risk of things like high blood pressure and diabetes – both of which can increase the risks of a stroke.
Even small changes to your diet can make a difference to your overall health, particularly if you have been told that you are at risk of having a stroke.
6. Cut down on alcohol
Regularly drinking too much alcohol raises your stroke risk. Experts recommend you drink no more than 14 units a week, and to spread the units over the week.
7. Stay a healthy weight
Being overweight affects your body in many ways, such as raising the risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which are both linked to stroke.
Critical Illness cover can provide peace of mind if you do have a stroke
All strokes are different. Some strokes can be very serious, and some may lead to coma or sudden death.
For some people, the effects may be relatively minor and may not last long. Others may be left with more serious problems that make them dependent on other people.
Possible effects of a stroke include:
- Muscle weakness – Nearly three-quarters of stroke survivors in the UK have leg weakness, and over three quarters have arm weakness. Weak muscles could leave you with difficulties with walking, moving your arms or holding things.
- Fatigue – After a stroke, many people have fatigue or tiredness that does not get better with rest. Many stroke survivors find that they lose cardiovascular fitness, because they become less active after a stroke.
- Spasticity – Spasticity affects around a third of stroke survivors. It can lead to some stiffness and tiredness in the muscles of the unaffected side, as you may be using them differently by trying to make up for weakness in your affected limbs.
- Emotional challenges – A stroke is sudden and shocking and can affect every part of your life. It’s a lot to deal with, so it’s likely to have an effect on your emotional wellbeing.
Brain Research UK reports that the number of deaths from stroke is going down. These lower mortality rates mean that more people are surviving stroke than ever before. The Stroke Association say there are more than 1 million stroke survivors in the UK.
If you have a stroke, it’s likely that you will have to take a significant period off work to recover. You may even have to give up work completely to focus on your recuperation.
In that situation, would you able to maintain your regular commitments, such as your mortgage, rent, and bills? Would you be able to afford to adapt your home to help manage your day-to-day life?
Critical Illness cover provides a tax-free lump sum if you have a serious stroke. Indeed, stroke is one of the most common reasons for a Critical Illness claim.
This type of cover provides money when you really need it, so you can focus on your health and your recovery without the added stress of worrying about money. It provides real peace of mind that you can continue to maintain your standard of living if you have a stroke.
Get a Critical Illness cover quote online now.
5 things science says can help slow the ageing process and help you to live longer
November 16, 2023
Almost half of those planning a funeral were “stressed by the cost” – here’s what you can do
November 9, 2023
Revealed: The 5 most important things you’ll consider when buying health and life insurance
November 2, 2023
Dementia – here are the symptoms to look out for and how protection can provide valuable support
October 26, 2023
2 in 3 adults worry about money – here are 3 useful ways to reduce your financial stress
October 19, 2023
5 easy steps to finding the right life insurance for you
October 12, 2023