Would you recognise the signs of a stroke?

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Think FAST and save a life. This is the message being reiterated by NHS Western Isles, two years after it launched the FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time to call 999) campaign locally in March 2013.

Stroke affects approximately 80 residents in the Western Isles every year, and NHS Western Isles is reminding people across the Outer Hebrides of the signs to look out for to potentially save a life.

Stroke is the third biggest killer in Scotland after heart disease and cancer. It claims the lives of 1 in 8 women and 1 in 10 men and leaves thousands more with some form of permanent disability.

Thankfully in the Western Isles, there is growing evidence that people are now able to recognise a stroke when it’s happening. This is as a result of campaigns like Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland’s (CHSS) ‘FAST’ test.

The FAST message was developed by leading stroke physicians and focuses on how an attack affects the face, arms and speech. The ‘T’ represents time to call the emergency services.

To spot the signs of a stroke, just remember the word FAST, where:

F stands for FACE. Can the person smile normally? Does their mouth droop?

A is for ARM. Can they lift both arms normally?

S is for SPEECH. Can they speak clearly? and

T is for TIME. Time to call 999 if any of these signs are present.

The FAST test is aimed at members of the public and is also used by paramedics to diagnose stroke prior to a person being admitted to hospital. By diagnosing the possibility of stroke before reaching hospital, it is possible for appropriate referral to a stroke unit to be made as quickly as possible.

Stroke can happen at any age. NHS Western Isles is also highlighting the fact that stroke is not just something that happens to older people. Approximately 1 in 4 of the people who have a stroke are under 65, so it’s not just a disease of old age. Of the 12,000 strokes that will happen throughout Scotland this year, around 1,000 will be people under 55, and 100 of them will be under the age of 30.

Coming to terms with having a stroke is something that many younger people have difficulty with. They may have never been ill previously or had any risk factors for stroke.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “There has been a huge change in attitude to stroke in recent years with a growing understanding that it should be treated with the same sort of urgency as a heart attack, because rapid treatment can make a huge difference to the odds of surviving or being left with some form of long term disability. That is why NHS Western Isles is re-energising the FAST campaign. Remember, think FAST and you could save a life!”

For more information visit Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland at www.chss.org.uk.