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A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
Strokes are a medical emergency and prompt treatment is essential because the sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.

FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time

The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time:

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one 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 one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
  • Time – it is time to dial the emergency services  immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms

Why do strokes happen?

The brain needs oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death.

There are two main causes of strokes:

  • ischaemic (accounting for over 80% of all cases) – the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot
  • haemorrhagic – a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts and causes brain damage

There is also a related condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing a 'mini-stroke'. TIAs should be treated seriously as they are often a warning sign that a stroke is coming.

Source: NHS Choices

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