What is a ‘Stroke’?

In the medical profession a Stroke is referred to as a Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA), which as it implies it is a problem with the circulation in the brain. The issue can be either from a bleed or from a clot, both of which interfere with the circulation of blood reaching parts of the brain tissue. Depending on where the CVA occurs, will determine the effects to the individual as different parts of the brain control different functions. However, there are common features that determine a person is experiencing a CVA, which can be remembered with the word FAST:

Face – The face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.

Arms – The person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech – Their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.

Time – It’s time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

When CVA occurs brain tissue can die if deprived of oxygen for a long period. It is therefore essential, once in hospital for the medical team to determine the cause of the Stroke. In some instances, it is necessary to give what is known as a ‘clot busting’ medicine, to break down the clot and prevent death of the brain tissue. In the event of a bleed, in some instances a situation may just be observed with an expectation that the bleeding will stop, in others it may be necessary to undergo surgery to stop the bleeding. The final outcome will depend on the speed of treatment and the degree of damage.

It is possible to have something called a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), also known as a Ministroke. The difference between this and a CVA is that the recovery from a TIA is quicker and the effects are less exaggerated, rarely causing any long-term effects. Whereas in the event of a CVA it is possible to lose the strength in one side of the body as well as have difficulties with speech and cognitive function,  requiring many months of rehabilitation with medical support.

There are things a person can do to reduce the risk of a CVA:


  1. Ideally be aware of your family history and whether there is an increased risk of blood clots or bleeds.
  2. Undergo a regular blood pressure check, to make sure your levels are within normal limits. It is now possible to have your blood pressure checked at a local pharmacy.
  3. Introduce a regular exercise into your working day, even if this is only getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way.
  4. Manage your weight to make sure you do not put an extra strain on your heart.
  5. Try to keep your diet healthy, so it is low in saturated fats, high in fibre and does not include excessive intake of processed foods.