Staff Health and Wellbeing Hub


General guidance on stroke

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a brain attack. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted. As a result, brain cells are deprived of the oxygen and nutrients which they need. Some brain cells become damaged and others die. There are two ways a stroke can happen:

  • When a blood clot blocks one of the arteries which carries blood to the brain. This is referred to as an ischaemic stroke.
  • As a result of bleeding within or around the brain from a burst blood vessel. This is referred to as a haemorrhagic stroke.

Key facts (Scotland)

  • Stroke is the third biggest cause of death in Scotland after heart disease and cancer.
  • There are approximately 13,000 people who have a first stroke each year. Of these around 1000 will be people under 55 and 100 of them will be under the age of 30. Stroke can happen to anyone of any age, even children and babies.
  • There are an estimated 110,000 stroke survivors.
  • There is concern that given increasing population exposure to some of the key risk factors for stroke in Scotland (obesity, smoking, alcohol misuse, high blood pressure, diabetes) that the incidence of stroke may increase in future years.

Stroke Symptoms - Think FAST

You can recognize the symptoms of a stroke using the FAST (Face Arm Speech) test.

FACIAL weakness: Can the person smile normally? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

ARM weakness: Can the person raise both arms?

SPEECH problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

TIME to call 999

If a person has failed any of these tests it is crucial to call 999.

Strokes are sudden and have an immediate effect. Stroke is a medical emergency and by calling 999 you can help someone reach hospital quickly and receive the early treatment they need.

Remember - Think FAST and save a life!

Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, in partnership with NHS Lothian, has launched an advertising campaign designed to raise public awareness of the symptoms of a stroke. The campaign poster and wallet card are available to download and print. If printing, the wallet card should be set at 75% to get correct size.

FAST poster

FAST wallet card

Stroke and Risk Factors

There are many lifestyle factors which can increase the risk of having a stroke including:

  • Smoking - smokers are twice as likely to suffer strokes as non-smokers.
  • Inactivity - people who are physically inactive are twice as likely to be at risk than people who are physically active.
  • Alcohol - binge drinking greatly increases the risk of stroke as it rapidly increases blood pressure.
  • Diet - an unhealthy diet high in salt and fatty foods is linked to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, which increase the risk of stroke.

Making simple lifestyle changes to make it healthier can reduce your risk of having a stroke. However, there are some risk factors that which are beyond your control and you cannot change, such as

  • Age - most people who have strokes are aged over 55.
  • Gender - more men under 75 have strokes than women.
  • Ethnic background - people of South Asian, African or African-Caribbean origin are at a higher risk of stroke.
  • Genetic inheritance - if you have a close relative who has had a stroke, you are at an increased risk.
  • Medical conditions - like heart disease and diabetes.

Preventing a Stroke

It is estimated that about 40% of strokes could be prevented or delayed if population exposure to key risk factors (obesity, smoking, alcohol misuse, high blood pressure) was reduced. Making simple lifestyle changes can prevent many strokes.

  1. Eat and drink healthily - limit alcohol and choose a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables and low in salt and saturated fats.
  2. Do more exercise - regular physical activity can halve your risk of stroke.
  3. Stop smoking - no matter how old you are and how long you have smoked quitting can help you live longer and be healthier.
  4. Control medical conditions (high blood pressure and high cholesterol)

Sources of Guidance and Advice

This information is sourced from the Stroke Association and Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS). For further information about stroke please see the links below.

The Stroke Association

Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland