Stroke and Stroke Prevention

A stroke happens when part of the brain is starved of blood and brain cells are damaged or die.  The impact of stroke varies; it can affect thought processes, bodily functions and our ability to learn, feel or communicate.

A stroke is a medical emergency that requires fast diagnosis and action by calling 999. The NHS ACT F.A.S.T. campaign helps you identify the signs of a stroke and tells you what to do if you are with someone suffering from a stroke. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer a stroke each year – over 150,000 in the UK alone.  Find out more about who is at risk of stroke here.

There are two main types of stroke:

  • ischaemic strokes happen when something blocks an artery that carries blood to the brain
  • haemorrhagic strokes happen when
 a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into 
the brain (a haemorrhage).

One in five strokes is attributed to atrial fibrillation (AF) or irregular heartbeat. It means that your heart may not be pumping as well as it should. As a result, blood clots are more likely to form in your heart, increasing your risk of having a stroke.

Warfarin treatment for AF reduces the likelihood of stroke by approximately 66%. In addition, the newer oral anticoagulant (DOAC) drugs such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixiban have been shown in clinical trials to be as effective as warfarin in reducing the likelihood of stroke.

The rates of stroke are generally declining. In addition, anticoagulation monitoring is improving for those taking vitamin K antagonists (VKAs). This relates to improving anticoagulant control and the increasing use of electronic advisory systems.

A change in lifestyle can reduce the risk or likelihood of stroke.

Because a high blood pressure produces no symptoms, it is very important that you have your blood pressure measured regularly.  A few simple steps can be taken to help lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke:

  • stop smoking
  • drink alcohol in moderation
  • eat a healthy diet
  • take regular exercise sufficient to make you mildly short of breath five times a week.