Charity Warning Over Stroke Risk

Thousands of people in Northern Ireland risk death or disability because they do not know enough about strokes, a leading medical charity has warned. NI Chest Heart and Stroke has labelled the findings of a new survey “shocking”. Eighty-four people in 100 did not think a high-fat diet was a risk and just 13% understood the danger of too much salt.

About 4,000 people suffer strokes in Northern Ireland each year. More and more young people are being affected. Of the number who have strokes, a third die, a third recover and the rest face permanent physical or mental problems.

The survey, carried out by Millward Brown for NICHS, also found that just 6% of the 1,017 people interviewed regarded severe headache as a warning sign.

Only 4% knew that the failure to understand the spoken or written word indicated someone was having a stroke. One in five people were unaware that stroke affects the brain, while one in 10 thought it affected the heart.

Andrew Dougal, chief executive of NICHS, said strokes must be treated as a medical emergency if people are to have a good chance of recovery.

“While some health messages are getting through to people, we have a great deal more work to do if stroke is to be recognised for what it is, namely a brain attack,” he said.

“It needs to be treated with the same urgency as heart attack and people need to do more to prevent it.”

The main risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, smoking, physical inactivity and obesity, high cholesterol and medical conditions such as diabetes.

The main symptoms indicating that someone is having a stroke include:

    * sudden and unexplained headache
    * sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
    * difficulty in speaking or understanding
    * loss of vision or blurred eyesight
    * sudden unexplained dizziness.

NICHS is to open a new support scheme for young stroke survivors in Craigavon and Banbridge.

The charity has planned a conference on the condition which will be held at Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena on Friday 22 September.