First Aid: Strokes – Act FAST

What Happens During a Stroke?

We have all no doubt seen the campaign, when stroke strikes you must Act FAST, but what exactly is happening during a stroke and how common is it?

The latest data shows that a stroke occurs every five minutes and 100,000 people have strokes each year. Stroke is a type of cerebrovascular disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in the UK.

A graph showing the leading causes of deaths in the UK in 2018.

There are 2 main types of stroke: Ischaemic and Haemorrhagic. They affect the brain in different ways and have different causes.

  1. Ischaemic strokes are the most common, they happen when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, typically where the arteries have narrowed or blocked over time due to fatty deposits known as plaques.
  2. Haemorrhagic strokes are less common than Ischaemic strokes and are caused when a blood vessel inside the skull bursts and bleeds into and around the brain, the main cause is high blood pressure which can weaken arteries and make them more likely to split or rupture.

Recognising a Stroke

Infograph for Act F.A.S.T (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) campaign that tells you the symptoms of a stroke.The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:

Face – the face may have dropped on 1 side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.

Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.

Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

Whilst waiting for the ambulance keep them seated and at rest whilst providing reassurance. Even if the symptoms disappear whilst waiting, it’s still important that they are seen to have an assessment.

Reducing the Chances of Stroke

A woman in black and white activewear running through a park on a sunny day.Some health problems raise your risk of a stroke. These include:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).
  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • High cholesterol.

Stroke risk can be increased by things we do in everyday life, including:

  • Smoking.
  • Being overweight.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Not getting much exercise.
  • Eating unhealthy food.

You can help to reduce your risk of a stroke by making some healthy lifestyle choices. Whether it’s your diet, activity levels, smoking or drinking, it’s never too late to make a change.

Have a read through Stroke Association’s handy guide for more information on changes you can make.

WA Management's First Aid Training on offer includes Emergency First Aid at Work, Paediatric First Aid and Mental Health First Aid.

If you would like to learn more in-depth guidance about what to do if you witness someone having a Stroke, our 3-Day First Aid at Work training course covers this topic amongst many others. Please get in touch to enquire now!