Public ignorant of stroke symptoms

Awareness of stroke, particularly transient ischaemic events or 'mini-strokes', is dangerously low, a survey has found. Raising awareness of the symptoms and the need to seek immediate treatment would save lives.

Of the 1,000 adults surveyed for the Stroke Association, 33 per cent would suggest a 'lie down' to somebody having a stroke.

Only 60 per cent would call an ambulance if they spotted the most common symptoms of stroke - facial, arm and leg weakness, and speech problems.

Dr Helen Rodgers, reader in stroke medicine at the University of Newcastle and member of the British Geriatrics Society and Intercollegiate Working Party for Stroke, wants public awareness raised.

'Patients need to know what the symptoms are and that they should seek help from emergency services and TIA clinics,' she said. 'We also need to make sure both primary and secondary care are able to respond.'

Last month, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association revised recommendations on preventing recurrent strokes. In a departure from earlier guidelines, they called for an end to differentiating between TIAs and strokes.

Dr Rodgers said this was a good move: 'The original distinction was made for epidemiological reasons in 1980.

'But 24 hours is an arbitrary cut-off and in truth they are part of the same disease process. It is increasingly realised that you have a similarly raised risk of further stroke after either event.

'It is important that patients understand that even though a TIA may be over in 15 minutes, it is still important to seek treatment quickly.'

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