You&Your health

With expert Pharmacist Andrew Watson of Good Measure Pharmacy What to do when a stroke strikes

A stroke is a life threatening brain attack that can change your life in an instant. It is often sudden, frightening, serious and unfortunately very common.

Like all major organs, the brain needs oxygen to function properly. When the blood supply to the brain is cut off, brain cells begin to die which leads to a stroke, with over 150,000 strokes occurring every year in the UK - about one every five minutes.

One in five strokes are fatal and around half the survivors are left with a brain injury or disability and need help with daily tasks. So it is important to recognise the signs of a stroke and how to keep ourselves healthy so as to minimise our risk.

Remembering the word F.A.S.T is helpful in spotting symptoms of a stroke.

Think F.A.S.T FACE

– has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?


– can they raise both arms and keep them there?

– is their speech slurred?


- call 999 if you see any single one of these signs of a stroke.

The most common type of stroke occurs because the blood supply to the brain is restricted by a blood clot or debris in an artery reducing the flow of blood. This is called an ischaemic stroke and happens in around 85 percent of all cases. The clot can either form in the arteries of the brain itself, or be carried from another part of


the body, often the heart, to lodge in the narrow arteries of the brain. One of the main causes of this is fatty deposits called plaques in the arteries. A less common type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts and leaks into the brain tissue causing damage. Called a haemorrhagic stroke, the cause of this is commonly uncontrolled high blood pressure. Over treatment with blood thinning medication, weakness in a blood vessel and injury to the brain may also cause this.

Mini strokes known as transient ischaemic attacks (TIA) are less damaging but may forewarn of a more serious stroke and are caused by a lesser amount of debris blocking an artery. The symptoms may only last a few minutes and are temporary, but it is important to seek medical attention to prevent a full stroke from happening. Similarly to heart disease, the risks of having a stroke can be increased due to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Age is also a factor, with people over 65 more likely to be at risk; however, a quarter of all cases happen in younger people.

It is essential that as soon as possible after a stroke, a brain scan is given to determine which type of stroke has occurred as treatment varies depending on the condition.

If your stroke is caused by a blood clot, you may be treated with a clot-busting drug called alteplase to try to disperse the clot and return the blood supply to your brain; a process known as thrombolysis.

Longer term therapy usually involves a daily dose of aspirin which should also be taken after a TIA to prevent further attacks. Aspirin has anti-platelet properties which helps stop further blood clots forming. Other similar medicines are clopidogrel and dipyridamole.

An anticoagulant may also be prescribed. This thins the blood making it flow more easily. Warfarin is often given but requires frequent blood tests to make sure the dose is correct. Examples of newer anticoagulants are apixaban and edoxaban which may be prescribed if your doctor thinks these are suitable.

If cholesterol levels are too high, causing a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries and

‘‘following a healthy lifestyle can help minimise risk. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, lean meat and oily fish is advisable as is stopping smoking and exercising’’

preventing a smooth flow of blood, then taking a statin such as atorvastatin is advisable. Medication to decrease high blood pressure may also be necessary.

If the stroke is caused by a bleed sometimes surgery can be done to drain off the blood from the brain. Usually medication to reduce blood pressure is given and any blood thinning medicine is stopped or carefully monitored. To prevent having a stroke, make sure you are registered with a GP to be entitled to your free NHS health checks from age 40. Along with being weighed and measured, blood pressure and cholesterol levels will be checked and a urine sample tested to determine if you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it. Samples of blood may be taken to be analysed for any abnormalities. Checks are usually done every five years but will be more frequent if anything is wrong. As with all health issues, following a healthy lifestyle can help minimise risk. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, lean meat and oily fish is advisable as is stopping smoking and exercising when possible.

Andrew Watson

If you have any specific health concerns, please feel free to contact me at Good Measure or email me at

In future editions of Around Town l hope to address your concerns.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92