What is a stroke?

A stroke is defined as a disturbance of the blood supply to the brain. The main two types of stroke are ischaemic stroke and haemorrhagic stroke.

  • ischaemic stroke: when a clot either narrows or blocks a blood vessel so that blood cannot reach the brain. This reduced blood flow causes brain cells in the area to die from lack of oxygen. The clot may have been formed elsewhere in the body and travelled up to the brain, or may be on the walls of an artery leading directly to the brain. This is the most common form of stroke
  • haemorrhagic stroke: when a blood vessel bursts and blood leaks into the brain, causing damage.

Both types of stroke affect the delicate brain tissue. The effects depend on the area of the brain affected and how much damage has occurred. Once the body adjusts to the shock of the stroke the amount of improvement differs from person to person.

Every year, an estimated 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke. That’s one person every five minutes. Most people affected are over 65, but anyone can have a stroke, including children and even babies. Approximately 25% of all strokes occur in people aged 65 or under. Around 1000 people under 30 have a stroke each year. (Stroke Association Website)

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in the UK. It is also the leading cause of severe disability.  Approximately a third of all strokes cause aphasia. More than 250,000 people in the UK live with disabilities caused by stroke. In Camden about 200-250 people each year are admitted to hospital due to either an ischaemic or haemorrhagic stroke.

Common symptoms

The first signs that someone has had an stroke are very sudden. Symptoms include:

Symptoms of stroke face drawing - From the stroke association website

  • numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body (signs of this may be a drooping arm, leg or lower eyelid, or a dribbling mouth)
  • slurred speech or difficulty finding words or understanding speech
  • sudden blurred vision or loss of sight
  • confusion or unsteadiness
  • a severe headache

Use the Face-Arm-Speech Test (FAST)

Three simple checks can help you recognise whether someone has had a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack - TIA).

  1. Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or an eye drooped?
  2. Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
  3. Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

Time to call 999

If you see any of these signs, call 999 immediately, even if they go away quickly. If the symptoms subside, you may have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) sometimes called a mini-stroke.

(Content source and image: Stroke Association Website:

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