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What is a stroke? A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood is carried to the brain by blood vessels called arteries. Blood contains oxygen and important nutrients for your brain cells. Blood may be interrupted or stop moving through an artery, because the artery is blocked (ischaemic stroke) or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke). When brain cells do not get enough oxygen or nutrients, they die. The area of brain damage is called a cerebral infarct.

What is a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)? This happens when there is a temporary interruption to the blood supply to the brain. It causes the same symptoms as a stroke, but these go away completely within 24 hours. Even though symptoms may go away it is also important to get treatment as quickly as possible by calling 000.

Recognising signs of stroke or TIA: the signs of stroke could be any one or a combination of the following:

  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis - in the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body.
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding.
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or unexplained fall.
  • Loss of vision, sudden blurred or decreased vision in one or both eyes.
  • Headache - usually severe and abrupt onset or a change in the pattern of headaches.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

The FAST test is an easy way to remember and recognise the signs of stroke or TIA.

  • Face - check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arms - can they lift both arms?
  • Speech - is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time is critical - if you see any of these signs, call 000 immediately.

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Thank you
Jenny Hill - College Nurse

Source: National Stroke Foundation