East Anglia: Charity warns that too few people would be able to spot the signs of a stroke

THOUSANDS of people across the region are at risk of having a stoke, a leading charity has warned.

A Stroke Association survey of over 196 members of the public in the East of England showed that 66% did not recognise the symptoms of a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), also known as mini-stroke.

Nearly 86% said they would be worried if they experienced the symptoms of a mini-stroke, but almost three quarters 73% said they wouldn’t take emergency action and go to hospital.

More than 46,000 people have a TIA every year in the UK. Symptoms include facial weakness, speech problems and pins and needles down one side of the body, but they often last for just a short time.

Further research carried out at the University of Oxford and funded by the Association revealed that one in ten patients who suffer a TIA go on to have a major stroke within a week.

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The study predicted that if all patients experiencing a mini-stroke in the UK received emergency treatment, almost 10,000 strokes could be avoided each year.

Professor Peter Rothwell, lead researcher of the project said: “”A TIA is an emergency and a significant proportion of people will go on to have a major stroke if they don’t seek urgent medical attention. However, this poll suggests that the signs of a TIA are still being ignored. This needs to change.

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Alex Stewart, regional head of operations for the Stroke Association in the East of England said: “The results of this poll are very concerning. Over 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK but up to 10,000 of these could be prevented if more people were aware of the symptoms of TIA and sought out emergency treatment.

“Not only would this save thousands from a lifetime of disability, it would also save the health service a considerable sum.

“Too many people remain unaware of the huge risk of stroke following a TIA. This needs to change. Anyone who experiences the symptoms, regardless of whether they disappear within a matter of minutes should go to hospital immediately. Assume it’s a stroke until it’s proven not to be by a medical professional.”

A TIA is caused by a temporary lack of blood flow to the brain and like a major stroke, it can be diagnosed using the “FAST” guidelines:

n Facial weakness - has the person’s face drooped, usually down one side?

n Arm weakness - is the person able to lift both arms above their head?

n Speech problems - does the person’s speech sound slurred?

The Stroke Association is also launching the Stroke Solidarity String, the new worldwide symbol for stroke, to mark World Stroke Day. Visit www.stroke.org.uk/solidaritystring

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