Thousands risk stroke as mini-stroke signs ignored

Monday 29 October 2012

Thousands of people are at risk of stroke because they fail to recognise the signs of a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA, also known as mini-stroke), according to the findings of a new poll(i) launched today on World Stroke Day (29 October 2012).

A Stroke Association survey of over 2,000 members of the public, conducted by ICM Research, revealed that:

  • Over two thirds (68%) of people did not recognise the symptoms of a TIA, with over a quarter (26%) believing they were symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Nearly nine out of ten people (87%) would be worried if they experienced the symptoms of a mini-stroke, yet almost three quarters (74%) wouldn’t take emergency action and go to hospital.
  • Over two thirds of respondents (68%) had never heard of TIA and two in five (40%) were unaware that a TIA was a warning sign of a major stroke.

Over 46,000 people have a TIA every year in the UK.  Symptoms can include facial weakness, speech problems and pins and needles down one side of the body, but they often last for just a short time.

Earlier research carried out at the University of Oxford(ii) and funded by the Stroke Association revealed that one in ten patients who has a TIA will go on to have a major stroke within a week without treatment.  The study predicted that if all patients experiencing a mini-stroke in the UK received emergency treatment, almost 10,000 strokes could be avoided each year.(iii)

Professor Peter Rothwell, Professor of Clinical Neurology, Oxford University and lead researcher of the project says:

“A TIA is an emergency and a significant proportion of people will go on to have a major stroke if they don’t seek urgent medical attention.  However, this poll suggests that the signs of a TIA are still being ignored. This needs to change.”

In 2004 63 year old Robert Washbrook was mowing the lawn when he began to feel dizzy.  After five minutes, the symptoms disappeared and Robert carried on with his day as normal, putting the experience down to a ‘funny turn’ and one too many drinks the previous night.  A week later, Robert incurred a similar experience at work; he felt dizzy again and felt a tingling sensation in one of his arms.  This time, Robert decided to go to his GP who told him that he’d had a TIA and he was sent to hospital immediately. 

Jon Barrick Chief Executive of the Stroke Association says:

“The results of this poll are very concerning. Over 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK but up to 10,000 of these could be prevented if more people were aware of the symptoms of TIA and sought out emergency treatment. Not only would this save thousands from a lifetime of disability, it would also save the health service a considerable sum.

“Too many people remain unaware of the huge risk of stroke following a TIA. This needs to change. Anyone who experiences the symptoms, regardless of whether they disappear within a matter of minutes should go to hospital immediately. Assume it’s a stroke until it’s proven not to be by a medical professional.”

A TIA is a stroke-like event, which is caused by a temporary lack of blood flow to the brain.  Like a major stroke, it can be diagnosed using FAST, but the symptoms are only temporary:

Facial weakness – has the person’s face drooped, usually down one side

Arm weakness – is the person able to lift both arms above their head

Speech problems – does the person’s speech sound slurred

Time to call 999 – if one or more of these symptoms are present call 999 immediately.

The Stroke Association is also launching the Stroke Solidarity String, the new worldwide symbol for stroke, to mark World Stroke Day.  The charity is encouraging everyone to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of TIA and stroke and show their solidarity in the fight against stroke. You can purchase your own string from: www.stroke.org.uk/solidaritystring

Ends

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Stroke Association’s media team on or email press@stroke.org.uk

  1. ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 2009 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 3rd-4th  October 2012.  Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.  ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information at www.icmresearch.com.
  2. J. Lovett, M. Dennis, et al. (2003). Stroke; 34: 138-140.
  3. P. Rothwell (2007). Lancet; 370: 1432-1443.
  4. P. Rothwell, M. Giles and E. Flossman (2005). Lancet; 366: 29-35.

The TIA research carried out in Oxford led to the development of the ABCD scoring system which is now used worldwide by ambulance crews to predict those patients with the highest risk of stroke. The criteria include: the Age of the patient; their Blood pressure; the Clinical symptoms experienced during the transient episode; and the Duration that the symptoms lasted.(iv)  

A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. Around 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK every year and it is the leading cause of severe adult disability. There are over one million people in UK living with the effects of stroke.

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