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What Causes A Stroke? Everything You Need To Know

March 8th, 2023

There are 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK according to The Stroke Association. When you recognise the signs of a stroke, speed is of the essence and acting quickly can lead to the best outcomes. This guide will explain what a stroke is, the symptoms of a stroke, what causes a stroke and how to care for someone living with the effects of a stroke.

What Is A Stroke?

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A stroke is a serious illness that happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. The brain is then starved of oxygen and brain cells begin to die, which results in the symptoms of a stroke. There are two main types of stroke:

  • An ischaemic stroke – this is the most common variant of stroke and happens when a blood clot blocks the supply of blood to the brain
  • A haemorrhagic stroke – when a weak blood vessel that carries blood to the brain bursts 

You may also be aware of the term ‘mini stroke’. A mini stroke is medically known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). This is when the blockage to the blood supply is temporary and passes on its own. The symptoms of a mini stroke will therefore not last as long as stroke symptoms.

In all cases, if you see signs of a stroke or a mini stroke, it’s important to act fast and seek medical advice.

Signs Of A Stroke

The signs of a stroke can be remembered by using the acronym FAST:

  • F is for FACE – if a person’s face appears numb on one side, they cannot smile or their eyes or mouth have dropped, it could be a sign of a stroke
  • A is for ARMS – arms may become weak or limp and the person may not be able to lift one or both arms or keep them held up
  • S is for SPEECH – speech can become slurred or incoherent when someone is having a stroke. They may also not understand what someone is saying to them and appear confused
  • T is for TIME – if you suspect any of these signs of a stroke, it is time to call the emergency services immediately

Other stroke symptoms to look out for include dizziness, lack of coordination, or blurred vision.

Mini Stroke Symptoms 

Mini stroke symptoms are very similar, if not identical, to the signs of a stroke. A person may display numbness in the face and arms, garbled speech, blurred vision, or a loss of balance. Mini stroke symptoms differ in that they do not last as long. They could happen for a few minutes or for up to 24 hours.

A mini stroke, or TIA, is a brief blockage with no lasting effects of a stroke. However, people can have multiple mini strokes and a mini stroke does put someone at a higher risk of going on to have a stroke.

You still need to act fast and call the emergency services if you think someone is showing mini stroke symptoms.

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What Causes A Stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is restricted either by a blood clot or a burst blood vessel. As the brain is therefore not getting enough oxygen, brain cells begin to die. As these brain cells die, they cause the symptoms of a stroke. 

You cannot predict blood clots or burst blood vessels, but there are some contributing factors to what causes a stroke, including; 

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one because of these factors, your doctor will be able to advise you on your concerns and help you reduce any risks. If you need to change your diet, check out our ideas for low cholesterol meals for some inspiration.

How to Prevent A Stroke

According to Brain Research UK, the vast majority of strokes occur in people aged 55 and over. Living a healthy lifestyle at any age is important, but it’s especially important as we get older. 

There are no hard and fast ways to prevent a stroke, but there are some ways we can look after our overall health to reduce the likelihood of a stroke happening:

  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and fewer saturated fats
  • Be physically active for 150 minutes a week
  • Limit alcohol
  • Quit smoking if you are a smoker
  • Keep blood pressure at a healthy range, avoiding stress
  • Control cholesterol 
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Eating well and exercising regularly, whether it’s walking, yoga, or exercise videos on YouTube is the best way to stay healthy and help to prevent serious illnesses like a stroke.

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The Effects Of A Stroke

How serious a stroke is will determine how long you are in hospital and how long rehabilitation takes. Many people fully recover, but there can be some long-term effects of a stroke that may require nursing care.

Some of the after effects of a stroke can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Problems with mobility
  • Incontinence
  • Brain fog and confusion
  • Trouble communicating

Rehabilitation can happen quickly or take several months. In some cases, the lasting effects of a stroke do not go away. However, this does not mean that those who have had a stroke cannot live full, active and productive lives with help from family, friends, or carers.

Nursing Care After A Stroke

If you or a loved one has had a stroke and continues to experience the after effects of a stroke, then choosing a care home with experienced nursing staff can provide the opportunity for independent living, alongside 24-hour nursing care.

If you’re caring for a loved one who has had a stroke, then respite care could help to give you some time back for yourself.

At New Care, we have fully trained nursing staff who work with healthcare professionals to provide nursing care centred around the needs of each individual resident. Our care homes are spacious and modern with facilities that cater for all residents, including those who need more dedicated care.

Please contact us to discuss your specific needs or to arrange a visit to one of our care homes. We’d be delighted to show you around and talk through the care services we offer.