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Know the signs of stroke and act F.A.S.T. to save someone's life – that's the advice of GPs in Greenwich.

About 100,000 people suffer a stroke every day in the UK – one every five minutes. This makes strokes one of the UK's biggest killers and one of the main causes of disability among survivors.

The sooner someone with a suspected stroke receives medical attention, the better the chances of reducing the damage.

People in Greenwich are being urged to act F.A.S.T. and dial 999 right away if they notice one of the symptoms or tell-tales signs of a stroke:

  • Face – has the person's face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there? 
  • Speech – is their speech slurred?
  • Time – it's time to call 999 if you see any one of these signs.

Dr Ellen Wright, a local GP and chair of NHS Greenwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:

"A stroke is sudden, so acting quickly could save your own, or someone else's life. Some people mistakenly think that they need to see two or more signs of stroke before dialling 999, but noticing just one symptom is sufficient warning to make the call.

"Thinking and acting fast increases the speed with which people are treated and consequently increases their likelihood of recovery.

"Some groups are more at risk than others, including people in certain ethnic groups and those with underlying health conditions, but lifestyle factors, particularly smoking, significantly increase the danger of having a stroke.

"The best way to avoid a stroke is to adopt a healthier lifestyle by eating well, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake."

A stroke is caused by a bleed on the brain due to a burst blood vessel or by a blood clot which stops blood getting to the brain.

A transient ischaemic attack is also known as a "mini-stroke" or "warning stroke". Symptoms of a mini stroke may include sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes; sudden weakness or numbness on one side of your body (including in your leg); sudden memory loss or confusion; and sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially with any of the other symptoms.

These symptoms may go away but 1 in 12 people go on to have a stroke within a week of having them, so you should still call 999 if any of these occur.

Age is the single biggest risk factor for strokes with the risk doubling every 10 years after the age of 55. People of south Asian, African or Caribbean background are also more likely to have a stroke than other people in the UK.

Other factors which increase the risk of stroke include underlying medical conditions, such as:

  • High blood pressures
  • High cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat)
  • Diabetes

The likelihood of stroke can be greatly reduced through adopting a healthier lifestyle by:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Taking regular exercise
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Not smoking

Please see NHS Choices and Stroke – Act F.A.S.T. for more information about the signs and symptoms of stroke, the risk factors and how to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.