A stroke is a problem that happens
when the blood supply to the brain is in some way disturbed.
That can happen broadly in two main ways.
Either the artery carrying the blood to the brain
can become blocked with a little blood clot,
so just like your sink getting blocked,
the blood can't flow through any more,
and therefore the brain that's being supplied by that artery
is deprived of its oxygen, its food supply,
and the brain cells die.
That's the most common cause of stroke.
It happens in about 85 per cent of stroke patients.
The other type is haemorrhage, which happens in the other 15 per cent.
That's where a blood vessel ruptures and bursts
and allows blood to flow out into the brain cells
and that causes damage to the brain cells.
Both sorts of stroke result in a particular part of the brain
being damaged as a result of the stroke.
And the symptoms somebody gets as a result of their stroke
vary according to which particular part of the brain has been affected.
Maybe stroke's not really the right term for the condition,
because it sounds all too gentle.
Many of us would prefer it if the name was changed to brain attack,
in much the same way as heart attack.
Everybody knows if you have a heart attack, you dial 999,
come straight to hospital and you can be cured.
The same message isn't got across with stroke.
The first question I would ask if I had a relative with a stroke
is why did it happen and what could I have done
that might have enabled us to prevent that stroke?
Stroke is, for most people, a preventable disease.
It does not need to happen.
It's about identifying whether you've got high blood pressure
and treating that seriously,
knowing what your cholesterol is, getting that down to a low level,
taking exercise, not getting too fat, not smoking.
All the usual boring things that we're told to do
to prevent heart disease are equally applicable to stroke.
20 to 30 per cent of people who've had strokes get a warning sign,
something that we call a TIA or transient ischaemic attack.
That's basically a very brief episode of stroke-like symptoms,
maybe paralysis, loss of speech, some change in the vision,
which then gets better very, very quickly.
And if that happens, then it should be taken very, very seriously.
It is certainly possible to actually avert the stroke
if we actually treat the TIAs and the underlying causes very rapidly.
But if we don't, then 20 to 30 per cent of people with those sort of TIAs
will go on and have a completed stroke.
The next question I would ask if my relative had a stroke
would be what should I have done
actually at the time that the person had the stroke
in terms of minimising its effects?
And this is absolutely critical.
The quicker we can get people who've had strokes
into hospital and treating them,
the less severe the effects are likely to be.
So what we're trying to do is to teach people
to recognise the key symptoms of stroke.
The Stroke Association have done a major campaign
around something called FAST,
which stands for the Face Arms Speech Test.
So if you get weakness of the face,
if you get abnormality of the speech, if you get weakness of an arm,
any one of those or even all three, obviously,
it could well be a stroke.
Get to hospital as soon as possible. Dial 999.
If we can actually identify stroke quickly,
if we can get people scanned to find out what sort of stroke it is,
then for some patients we can give clot busting treatment,
which can have a dramatic effect
in terms of reducing long-term death and disability.
The recovery after a stroke can go on for a very long time.
One of the key messages that I give to my patients
is really not to give up too soon.
Find out what's available, find out what you need as an individual,
and then fight tooth and nail to make sure
that you get proper rehabilitation by people who know what they're doing.