Sunday, May 22, 2016
Whilst no one really likes talking about delicate subjects, such as heart attacks and strokes, the reality is they do happen and arming yourself with the right knowledge and skills could help to save someone’s life.
According to the NHS, there are over 150,000 people suffering from strokes every year in the UK, which makes it ever more poignant to not only know basic first aid, but also to be able to recognise the signs of a stroke, as acting F.A.S.T. is key to the victim's recovery and ultimately their survival.
To gain an understanding of the signs of a stroke, it’s also important to know what a stroke is. Essentially it is a ‘brain attack’ caused by a problem with the blood supply to the brain. There are two types of stroke – Ischaemic and Haemorrhagic. The former is the most common type of stroke that is caused by a blood clot narrowing or obstructing the blood vessels, preventing blood from reaching a particular part of the brain and killing the brain cells. A haemorrhagic stroke is the result of a weakened blood vessel in the brain bursting, which causes bleeding in the brain.
Victims can also suffer Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIA) that are termed ‘mini-strokes’, which show the same symptoms, but they will recover within 24 hours. However, these can be a warning sign for a more severe stroke, so still require you to act F.A.S.T.
When it comes to strokes, the key to a good recovery and survival is by quick thinking, hence the acronym F.A.S.T., which is designed to be a prompt and simple check-list for people to recognise and treat the signs of a stroke effectively.
The brain is a complex organ and controls a number of bodily functions, which is why when a victim is suffering a stroke, their body won’t work as it should, and this includes the face, arms and speech. The F.A.S.T. acronym addresses the key areas where stroke signs are most visible.
F – FACE – Can they smile? Or is one side of their face drooping? When a person is experiencing a stroke, the brain is starved of oxygen in the affected area, which can affect different parts of the body, this includes the facial muscles, causing them to relax and droop.
A – ARMS – Can they raise both arms in the air and keep them there? As with the face, our physical movements are all controlled by the brain, so if blood isn’t reaching the area that controls limb movement, you will see physical signs of arm paralysis or weakening.
S – SPEECH – Is their speech slurred or are they confused? Speech can also be affected by a lack of oxygen getting to the brain and they may be experiencing mental confusion, causing speech to slur and be incoherent.
T – TIME – If you witness any or all of these signs it’s time to call 999. The faster you act on the signs, the quicker medical teams can identify the clotted area and save more of the person.
This powerful message gives a clear indication of the signs of stroke and how you should react, emphasising how time is of the utmost importance in treating stroke victims. If you observe any of these signs, then call an ambulance immediately.
The key to identifying a stroke is the rapid onset of the symptoms; however, there are some conditions, which can mimic these signs and could result in misdiagnosis of a stroke victim.
Whilst these diseases can display similar signs, such as muscle dysfunction or paralysis, slurred speech, confusion and seizures, the rapidness of these signs may be much more gradual than a stroke. If you’re dealing with these symptoms but aren’t sure if it could be a stroke, it’s still vital that you call an ambulance right away, where they can properly determine the illness.
Having a better awareness of the signs of stroke and the procedures to follow with F.A.S.T will make sure that should the unfortunate situation ever arise, you will know exactly what to do. Acting fast could potentially save a life and result in a far better stroke recovery.