Recently I have seen the FAST advert for strokes again. It made me think, do people know why it is so important to act quickly if you suspect a stroke?
A stroke happens when there is an interruption in the blood supply to part of the brain. Blood is essential for the brain to function as it provides the cells with oxygen and nutrients. The most common cause of stroke (about 85%) is due to a clot being formed and getting stuck in one of the blood vessels supplying the brain (ischaemic stroke). With the blood supply cut off, that area of the brain is starved of oxygen and nutrients causing damage to the cells, and if prolonged, cell death. It can also be caused by one of the vessels bleeding causing lack of oxygen and cell damage (haemorrhagic stroke).
So how do you know if someone is having a stroke? Just remember:
Face – is there asymmetry of the face, or a droop on one side
Arm – can they lift both arms
Speech – is the speech slurred or garbled
Time – act quickly and phone an ambulance!
If you have any ONE of these symptoms then call an ambulance immediately. If you have a clot blocking the blood supply to the brain, the quicker you can get to hospital the more likely you can have a ‘clot busting’ drug. This breaks down the clot allowing the blood to reach the area of damaged brain and supply oxygen and nutrients to the cells so they can continue to work.
Once a brain cell dies, it cannot re-grow. However, the brain and nervous system is clever and it can adapt. By trying to do everyday tasks and working with therapists, we are trying to retrain the brain to find a different way of achieving that task, this is known as neuroplasticity. Every stroke is different and everyone recovers at different speeds and to varying degrees. Therapists will work with patients and families to maximise the recovery and regain independence.
In summary if you have ONE or more of the symptoms of FAST you should call an ambulance immediately and get emergency care. After the initial stroke you need intensive therapy with early mobilisation to optimise recovery.