When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down. And so does a part of you

Let's Make May Purple!

Make May Purple for Stroke is the Stroke Association’s annual stroke awareness month, taking place every May.

Stroke strikes every five minutes and destroys lives. Let’s help others by going purple!

When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down. And so does a part of you.

Recovery is difficult, but with the right specialist support and lots of courage and determination, the brain can adapt. With more donations and support , the Stroke Association can rebuild even more lives.

How can you help?

All you have to do is wear purple in May, and every penny raised will help provide support for stroke survivors. Examples:

  • You can wear purple to work, or at a local community event – wherever you are
  • Turn all your activities purple during May
  • Go as purple as you want – why not dye your hair purple? Or host a purple party?
  • Invite your friends round for a purple dinner; if the sun is out make it a garden party. Serve nothing but purple food and drink (think blackcurrant squash, blueberry tea and beetroot salad!)
  • Get your keep-fit class to dress in purple and have a sponsored cycle.
  • Or why not host a five a side donation-based tournament? Get everyone wearing purple - just make sure you have coloured bibs to identify the teams!
  • Take lots of photos, and spread the word. #MakeMayPurple

What is a stroke and what causes it?

A stroke is a brain attack. It happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to your brain, so without blood, your brain cells can be damaged or die. This damage can have different effects, depending on where it happens in your brain.

The injury to the brain caused by a stroke can lead to widespread and long-lasting health problems. Because the brain controls everything we do and how we think, depending on which part of the brain is injured, a stroke can impact on how the body functions and how you communicate, think and learn.

Although some people may recover quite quickly and the effects may be relatively minor, many people who have a stroke need long-term support to help them regain as much independence as possible.

Unfortunately not everyone survives a stroke – around one in eight people die within 30 days of having a stroke; that’s why it’s so important to be able to recognise the symptoms and get medical help as quickly as possible. The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen. For many people, a stroke happens suddenly and without warning.

How can you tell if a person is having a stroke?

A stroke can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time. It's vital to know how to spot the warning signs of a stroke in yourself or someone else. Using the FAST test is the best way to do this:

  • Face: Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?
  • Arms: Can the person raise both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?
  • Time: If you see any of these three signs, it's time to call 999.

A stroke is a medical emergency

You may start off in accident and emergency or another assessment ward, but it is likely you will be quickly admitted to an acute stroke unit, which has a range of trained professionals experienced in stroke care. The quicker your stroke is diagnosed and treated, the better your recovery will be.

A brain scan can show what type of stroke you have had. A CT scan or an MRI scan will show whether your stroke has been caused by a blockage or by a bleed.

There are two main types of stroke:

  • Ischaemic stroke - caused by a blood clot
  • Haemorrhagic stroke - due to bleeding in or around the brain.

With the right help and support, your stroke doesn’t have to stop you from doing the things you want to do.

A TIA or transient ischaemic attack (also known as a mini-stroke) is the same as a stroke, except that the symptoms last for a short amount of time. It is caused by a blockage cutting off the blood supply to part of your brain. This can cause sudden symptoms similar to a stroke, such as speech and visual disturbance, and numbness or weakness in the face, arms and legs. However, a TIA doesn’t last as long a stroke and often only lasts for a few minutes or hours and fully resolve within 24 hours.

In the early ages of a TIA, it is not possible to tell whether you’re having a TIA or a full stroke so it’s important to dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

A TIA is a warning that you may be at risk of having a full stroke in the near future. Even though the symptoms of a TIA resolve in a few minutes or hours, you’ll need tests and treatment to help prevent another TIA or full stroke. This may mean taking medication to treat any medical conditions that could be increasing your risk. It could also mean making some changes to your lifestyle, such as giving up smoking or doing more exercise.

Can strokes be prevented?

The best way to help prevent a TIA/stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol:

  • If you smoke, stop! Smoking significantly increases your risk of having a TIA or a stroke
  • Cut down on alcohol: men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol on a regular basis with at least two alcohol-free days each week
  • If you have high cholesterol, you may need cholesterol-reducing medication but eating a healthy diet will help reduce “bad cholesterol”. A low fat, high-fibre diet is usually recommended with a limit of 6g salt a day
  • Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure which in turn can lead to a TIA or stroke, so try to keep your weight at a reasonable level. A healthy balanced diet is important in helping to prevent a TIA or stroke. Ask your GP about referral to a dietician
  • Exercise is an effective way to reduce high blood pressure, increase fitness levels and lose weight. If you are able, you should aim to do 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, including strengthening exercises
  • Make sure your blood pressure is checked regularly – check with your GP or practice nurse about checking your blood pressure
  • If you have diabetes, treatment to keep your blood sugar as near normal as possible is important.