What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. This happens when a blood vessel, known as an artery in the brain becomes blocked (a clot) or bleeds (a brain haemorrhage).

The brain controls everything we do and is divided into many parts with each part having its own job. What you are able to do, or not do after a stroke, depends on the size of the damage and where in the brain the damage has happened.

A Stroke happens suddenly and is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY

If you or someone you know has the following signs they need to ACT FAST and dial 999

  • Facial weakness Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm or leg weakness.....Can they raise both arms and keep them there.
  • Speech problems, they find it hard to talk, understand, read, or write.  Some people may find it harder to eat and drink.
  • Time to call 999

It is important to remember that NO two people who have a stroke are the same.  Each stroke is different.

Some people may get better quickly, but many take several months, people may carry on getting better slowly for many years.  Sadly some people may always find some tasks difficult, and the person who has had the stroke and their family need to know that it takes time, a lot of patience and often hard work to begin to walk, to speak, to wash. To do the things we normally take for granted.

Why do some people have a stroke?

Some people are more at risk if they have high blood pressure, high levels of fat called cholesterol in their blood, drink too much alcohol, smoke a lot, or have diabetes.  BUT people may have or do none of these factors, and still have a stroke.

You may hear doctors call a stroke a CVA or Cerebral Vascular Accident.

How can you reduce your risk?

You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by leading a healthy lifestyle

If you smoke, try to stop

  • Eat a healthy diet – fruit and vegetables are good for you, fatty foods are not. Use vegetable oil when cooking. 
  • Use less salt.

  • Take regular exercise
If you are overweight, this may increase your risk.

If you drink alcohol – the sensible drinking guidelines state women should not drink more than two or three small glasses of wine a day. Men no more than one and a half or two pints of weak beer, or three measures of spirit like whisky.

If you have high blood pressure have it checked regularly.  You may not feel unwell but it is important you take any tablets the doctor gives you.  People with untreated high blood pressure are more likely to have a stroke.

What is a mini-stroke?

A mini-stroke or you may hear it called a transient ischaemic attack or TIA is like a stroke but what happens only lasts a few minutes or up to a day. 
The brain is divided into many parts, each part controlling different actions.  In a mini-stroke, the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off for a short time because a blood vessel becomes temporarily blocked.

This may cause some of the following:
  • A sudden weakness down one side of the body
  • A sudden numbness or a feeling of pins and needles in the face, or arm or leg
  • Speech may be slurred
  • There may be a difficulty speaking, or understanding what is said to you
  • A sudden loss of vision or unable to see properly
  • Feeling mixed up. The world around you not making as much sense perhaps dizzy

What should you do?

It is important if you or someone you know finds this happening they see their doctor as soon as possible.  Other conditions can cause some of these but it is important you see your doctor to try and find out why it is happening to you.   Ask to be referred to a specialist stroke service.  If it is a mini-stroke, treatment may be needed to help reduce your risk of having a major stroke or another mini-stroke.  Not all people who have a mini-stroke will have another one.

You can help yourself by trying to eat a healthy diet, have your blood pressure checked, try not to smoke, be overweight or drink too much alcohol, and take some exercise.

Information is available on stroke and its effects from Dudley Stroke Association or can be downloaded from The Stroke Association  www.stroke.org.uk

How do I get help looking after someone?

For help with everyday activities, such as washing and dressing, meals an assessment is needed by Social Services.

For Information about services available in Dudley contact:

Adult Social Care: (2nd Floor) Brierley Hill Health and Social Care Centre, Venture Way, Brierley Hill DY5 1RE Tel: 0300 555 0055   Open:  Monday - Friday 9am-5pm