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A stroke can occur when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or ruptures causing parts of the brain to become starved of oxygen. If you suspect a stroke, you must call the emergency services immediately and tell them what has happened and that you think the person has had a stroke. An estimated 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK each year and over 10,000 of these people are under retirement age. Stroke has a greater disability impact than any other chronic disease and over 300,000 people are living with moderate to severe disabilities as a result of strokes. Stroke can kill, and there are over 67,000 deaths each year in the UK due to stroke. And a stroke is the third most common cause of death in England and Wales after heart disease and cancer. Stroke accounts for 9% of all deaths in men and 13% of all deaths in women.

There are two main types of stroke: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke happens when the clot blocks an artery that carries blood to the brain. It may be caused by cerebral thrombosis when a blood clot forms in the main artery to the brain, a cerebral embolism when a blockage caused by a blood clot, air bubble, or fat globule forms in a blood vessel somewhere else in the body, that's then carried into the bloodstream to the brain or a blockage in the tiny blood vessels deep within the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is a bleed when a blood vessel bursts causing bleeding or haemorrhage in the brain. It may be caused when a blood vessel bursts within the brain or when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain bleeds into an area between the brain and the skull. Sometimes blockages in the blood supply to the brain is temporary and the person will have symptoms of a stroke but only for a short space of time. This is called a transient ischemic attack or TIA, also known as a mini-stroke.

Some people have just one TIA. Others have repeated TIAs over their life. A TIA is a sign a part of the brain is not getting enough blood and therefore a risk of more serious strokes in the future. As with major strokes, you must seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

A stroke can happen with no obvious cause to people of any age but there are known factors to increase the likelihood of having one. Some of these factors are things that can't be changed. Other risks may be reduced by lifestyle changes or medication. Signs and symptoms include sudden headaches, confusion, numbness, paralysis down one side of the body, loss of bladder or bowel control and not being able to coordinate the body.

A good way of remembering this is the mnemonic FAST. F, face. Has their face fallen down on one side? Can they smile? A, arms. Can they raise both arms and keep them level? S, speech. Is their speech slurred or having trouble speaking? T, time. You must call emergency services if you see any of these signs. The first signs that someone's had a stroke are very sudden. Symptoms can include numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, which may show as a drooping arm or leg or a problem with eyelids, dribbling on the mouth, slurred speech, difficulty finding or speaking words or understanding speech, sudden blurred vision or complete loss of sight, confusion, unsteadiness and finally a very severe headache. The more quickly that you identify that someone is having a stroke and the sooner they can receive medical treatment, the more the brain could be saved, allowing the patient to have a much better chance of recovery.

The care you give to the patient is to help them onto the floor, place them in a recovery position positioned on their affected side. Cover them with a blanket. Calm them down. Try and keep people away. They will be confused and scared, so try and avoid any onlookers. Losing bladder or bowel control is common, so protect their dignity at all times. Dealing with somebody who's having a stroke can be very upsetting for the first-aider. So be aware of this and talk with a friend or a medical professional if you need help.