Health: Make sure you know the signs of stroke

Ruth Dean.
Ruth Dean.
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AFTER SUDDENLY feeling ill one evening, Ruth Dean decided she ought to go straight to bed.

The 65-year-old grandmother from Harrogate put it down to just a ‘funny turn’.

She didn’t know it at the time, but Ruth had just suffered her first mini-stroke.

Three days after the incident in August 2010, Ruth had a full blown stroke whilst out shopping.

“It felt like someone had hit my head with a hammer,” she said.

“I didn’t know I’d had a stroke. It just felt like all the feeling has been drained out of you.”

A friend called an ambulance and she was treated at Harrogate Hospital.

Ruth was in hospital for six weeks, lost the movement in her left side and had to learn to walk again.

Since the strokes, she has suffered another three mini-strokes and one full stroke, which she attributes to stress.

“I’ve had to make a lot of changes to my lifestyle,” Ruth said.

“I can’t drive, the tiredness is one of the worst things for me and not being able to use one of your hands is a real struggle.

“Your whole life suddenly stops and you have to re-evaluate.”

Ruth isn’t the only one who failed to spot the warning signs of stroke.

According to new research, thousands of people in Yorkshire and Humberside put themselves at risk of a stroke by dismissing their passing symptoms as ‘just a funny turn’, and are unaware that they are having a mini-stroke.

Every year, around 46,000 people in the UK have a mini-stroke for the first time.

The symptoms are the same as a stroke but last for a short time and people appear to return to normal.

If mini-strokes (also known as a TIA or transient ischaemic attack) are treated in time, around 10,000 strokes could be prevented annually and the NHS and care services could save more than £200m.

The latest report by the Stroke Association, called Not Just a Funny Turn, is based on a UK-wide survey of people who had a mini-stroke in the past five years.

Julia MacLeod, regional head of operations at the Stroke Association in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “The greatest risk of having a major stroke is within the first few days after a mini-stroke.

“However, for many people it doesn’t feel like an emergency because the symptoms are brief or mild.

“Too many mini-stroke patients delay calling 999 when their symptoms start and instead choose to book a GP appointment or visit their optician for advice because of their visual symptoms.”

Findings from the report, which is supported by Legal & General, show that over a third of people having a mini-stroke thought it was a ‘funny turn’, only one in five people experiencing symptoms of a mini-stroke rang 999, almost half said the symptoms didn’t feel like an emergency and a fifth of people went on to have a major stroke.

The survey also revealed that a quarter of people said healthcare professionals had not recognised the symptoms as that of a mini-stroke, nearly a quarter of people were given no information or advice about changes they needed to make to their lifestyle to prevent a stroke and although there may appear to be no after effects of mini-stroke, more than 45 per cent reported that their mini-stroke had affected them physically, causing problems with their communication, memory or vision.

Julia added: “There’s nothing small about mini-stroke. It’s a medical emergency. When the symptoms start, you should call 999 and say you may be having a stroke.

“Urgently investigating and treating people who have a TIA or minor stroke could reduce their risk of having another stroke by 80 per cent.

“Even though the symptoms may disappear, there might be damage to the brain, so you need to see a specialist.”

Professor Tony Rudd, chair of the Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party, said: “It is vital that the public are more aware of the importance of recognising the symptoms of TIA and getting urgent attention.”

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The symptoms of a stroke or mini-stroke usually come on suddenly.

Other symptoms, sometimes associated with TIA, can include weakness or numbness on one side of the body, loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes, memory loss, confusion or a sudden fall.

When the symptoms start, call 999 and say you may be having a stroke.

The launch of the Not just a funny turn campaign and report marks the start of Action on Stroke Month 2014.

PIC: Simon Hulme

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