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Strokes kill 45,000 people per year

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Baroness Thatcher died after suffering from a stroke - a condition which kills around 45,000 people every year in the UK.

Strokes are the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer.

All strokes result in damage to the brain, either due to blocked arteries or bleeding from ruptured blood vessels.

Ischaemic strokes, which account for more than 80% of all strokes, occur when the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot.

Haemorrhagic strokes happen when a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts and causes brain damage.

The risk of stroke rises significantly with age. And 40,000 of those who die each year are over the age of 75, according to the Stroke Association.

The condition affects 152,000 people in the UK every year. The brain damage caused by strokes means that they are the largest cause of adult disability in the UK.

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear about the death of Baroness Thatcher from a stroke. Our thoughts are with her family at this very sad time.

“Around 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK and approximately one in five is fatal.

“Thanks to improvements in hospital care and better recognition of the symptoms through the Fast campaign many more people are surviving a stroke and are going on to make a good recovery.

“Today there are over one million people living in the UK with the after effects of the condition and although a stroke happens in an instant the effects can often last a lifetime.”

The “Fast” campaign urges people to look out for the following signs and call 999 if they spot a single one:

  • Facial weakness - can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness - can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech problems - can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time - to call 999 for an ambulance if any one of these signs occurs.

Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said that there are a number of risk factors associated with stroke.

“There are risk factors that you can do something about and others that you can’t,” she said.

“The older you get, the more likely you are to have a stroke.

“But there are plenty of things you can do to make a big difference including stopping smoking, monitoring high blood pressure and high cholesterol, being physically active - overweight or obese people are at a higher risk.

“If you have a family history of younger people with cardiovascular disease you are also more likely to have a stroke.”

People over 65 are most at risk from having strokes, but younger people can still be affected.

Ethnicity also plays a role - NHS guidance on strokes says that Asian, African or Caribbean people are at an increased risk of the condition.

People who suffer from irregular heart beats are four to five times more likely to suffer from strokes - the condition increases the risk of a blood clot forming inside the heart chambers and such a clot can travel through the bloodstream and block the blood supply to your brain, causing a stroke.

Those who survive strokes may have to undergo long-term rehabilitation, and some never recover.

Because the brain’s cells become damaged or die when a stroke occurs, it can affect the way people’s bodies or minds work.

Strokes affect people in different ways, depending on the part of the brain that is affected.

There are a wide number of long-term problems that people can face after suffering from a stroke including difficulties with bodily functions and thought processes.

The Stroke Association say that about a third of people who have a stroke make a “significant recovery” within a month. But most stroke survivors will have long-term problems.

Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.

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