Working together to reduce risk of stroke

Donna Stott, Community Development and Partnership Manager for the Stroke Association.
Donna Stott, Community Development and Partnership Manager for the Stroke Association.

Morpeth Rotary Club

Donna Stott is the Community Development and Partnership Manager for the Stroke Association in the Northern Region.

She spoke to Morpeth Rotary about the aims of the association as preparation for a Know Your Blood Pressure project, in which the club was to check people’s blood pressure at the Morpeth Gathering.

High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for having a stroke.

The Stroke Association has a vision of a world with fewer strokes and where those who have had them get the help they need. It runs a helpline, from 9am to 5pm, with some out-of-hours services. It offers long-term support, campaigning, research, awareness and prevention training and volunteering.

Anyone can have a stroke at any age. The singer Jesse J had a stroke at 18.

It is the fourth most common cause of death. There is one stroke every 3.5 minutes in the UK. There are 152,000 new stokes a year, with a cost to the NHS of £9billion.

A stroke is where the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, leading to the damage of cells. Eighty per cent of strokes are caused by a blood clot in the arteries, heart or lungs.

Mini-strokes or Transient Ischaemic Attacks(TIA) can last from a few minutes to a few hours, with symptoms lasting no more than 24 hours. It happens when a bleed temporarily floods an area of the brain.

Symptoms are the same as a stroke, but the treatment is very different so a scan is needed.

Signs of stroke should be checked with a ‘FAST test’. Check for face weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, and if all are affected telephone 999 fast. A team in the North East developed the test.

Ask someone to smile to see if it is lopsided. Ask them to hold up their arms in front of them, support them, then let go, to see if one drifts down. Ask something simple that does not need a yes/no answer, such as their name, to check if they sound drunk, give a strange answer or pause.

The Northumberia Emergency Care Hospital has a 24-hour stroke consultant.

There are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK, with a quarter under 65. Figures for the North East are 58,000, including 7,200 in Northumberland.

Risk factors are high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, smoking, unhealthy eating, oral contraception, previous stroke or TIA, binge drinking, substance misuse, inactivity, age, family history and ethnicity.

The risks can be reduced by eating five portions of fruit/veg each day, having a high fibre and low fat diet, having five periods of 30 minutes exercise a week, having blood pressure checks, giving up smoking and controlling alcohol intake.

A vote of thanks was given by Tony Stubbs.