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Showing symptoms of stroke? Make sure you Act F.A.S.T like Russell did

On the 2nd February, Public Health England will relaunch the ‘Act Fast’ stroke campaign, running from 2 February to 31 March, to raise awareness of the symptoms of stroke and to encourage anyone who witnesses or experiences them to get medical help straight away.

In light of the campaign’s revival, doctors at NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) are advising local residents to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of stroke.

Stroke is a serious, life threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. It is essential for anyone who is experiencing symptoms of stroke to seek medical help because the sooner they do, the less damage is likely to be done.

Russell Whittle from Blackburn knows just that and is just one of 1.2million stroke survivors in the UK. Russell was only 56 when he had a debilitating stroke at the end of last year which had a devastating effect on his life.

The warning signs were there but unfortunately, although Russell knew he wasn’t right, he wasn’t aware of the risk he was facing - but, around 80% of strokes can be prevented.

Act F.A.S.T outlines the symptoms of stroke, which are:
• Face – their face may have dropped to one side, they may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped
• Arms – they may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness
• Speech – their speech may be slurred, or they may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
• Time – if you see any of these signs or symptoms, it is time to call 999 immediately

Russell said: “There isn’t enough awareness of stroke; people don’t understand it. I get a feeling that people think I’m pretending there is something wrong with me, that I don’t want to work but just claim benefits.

“The first time I got on a bus after my stroke, I went flying as the bus driver set off before I had sat down. I also get disorientated if I go in a shop that I don’t know. People don’t realise it’s a brain injury and that it can totally change your life. I feel like putting a big sticker on my head.”

Dr John Randall, the clinical lead for long term conditions (including stroke) at NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Stroke can have devastating consequences affecting such things as walking, talking, balance, co-ordination, vision, swallowing, and bladder and bowel control. Research tells us though that up to 80% of strokes can be prevented and like any major disease, the best prevention is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.”

Following his stroke Russell is left with balance and mobility problems, sight problems and fatigue. Unfortunately not enough people have awareness of stroke; either the symptoms or the consequences.

Dr Mark Dziobon, a Burnley GP and Clinical Director of Performance at NHS East Lancashire CCG, said: “The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person but usually begin very suddenly over a few seconds or minutes. Sometimes people wake up from sleep to find that they have had a stroke. It is important for everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms and to remember that strokes are a medical emergency. Urgent treatment is essential because the sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen. So, if you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, seek medical help immediately.”

For more information about the symptoms of stroke, and to find out what support is available, visit: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/pages/introduction.aspx.