Strokes are the third largest cause of death and the largest cause of adult disability in England. Strokes occur if the supply of blood to the brain is disturbed.
Like all of our organs, our brain needs our blood to provide the oxygen and nutrients it needs to work properly. If the supply of blood to our brain is disturbed or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death.
Types of stroke
There are two main causes of strokes:
- A blood clot stopping the supply of blood to the brain. This is called an ischaemic stroke.
- A weakened blood vessel bursting and causing brain damage. This is called an haemorrhagic stroke.
There is also a condition known as a TIA, or transient ischaemic attack. This happens when the supply of blood to the brain is interrupted for a short time, causing something called a 'mini-stroke'. TIAs are often a warning sign that a full stroke is coming and should be treated very seriously.
Who's at risk from stroke?
People who are over 65 years of age are most at risk from having strokes. A quarter of strokes occur in people under the age of 65, and it is possible for children to have strokes.
Smoking, obesity, poor diet and drinking alcohol are risk factors for stroke. Conditions that affect the circulation of your blood - for example diabetes or high blood pressure - increase your risk of having a stroke.
Reduce your risk
Strokes can't be prevented, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, only drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking will reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Think and act FAST
Strokes are a medical emergency. The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen. Visit the Act FAST website to learn how to spot the signs of stroke.
Stroke support group
Hartlepool's First Stroke Support Group is a social group for people who have had a stroke and their carers. The group meets once a week and you do not need a referral from a doctor or social worker to go along.
You can find out more about stroke, its causes and treatment on the NHS Choices website.