HUNDREDS of people in East Lancashire are putting themselves at risk of a major stroke by dismissing their symptoms as a ‘funny turn’.
The Stroke Association has launched a campaign to raise awareness about ‘mini-strokes’, which if left untreated can lead to a full-blown stroke in about one in five cases.
Also known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), a mini-stroke is caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain.
It can cause speech and visual disturbance and numbness or weakness in the arms and legs, but the symptoms generally only last for a few minutes.
Former teacher Eunice Yates, of Westminster Road, in Darwen, had a mini-stroke in December 2012 when she experienced weakness and numbness in her left side.
The 79-year-old was going to dismiss the symptoms, but her friend told her to call her GP, who advised she call 999 immediately. The ambulance took her straight to Royal Blackburn Hospital and scans revealed she had suffered a TIA.
She has since been taking regular blood-thinning medication and eating more healthily, which will reduce the risk of a stroke.
Eunice, who has 11 grandchildren and used to work at Darwen Vale High School, said: “I was staggered when the GP told me to dial 999, because I didn’t think it was anything serious.
“But the tests revealed my blood pressure and cholesterol were very high and it made me think more carefully about my life style.
“I now eat sensibly and try to get more exercise. I realised that, after my husband Geoff's death eight years ago, I had perhaps let my diet slide.”
The Stroke Association said that, nationally, about 10,000 strokes could be prevented every year if mini-strokes were treated at the right time, while NHS and care services could save more than £200m.
Chris Larkin, head of operations at the Stroke Association in the North West, said: “The greatest risk of having a major stroke is within the first few days after a mini-stroke.
“However, for many people it doesn’t feel like an emergency because the symptoms are brief or mild.
“There’s nothing small about mini-stroke.
“It’s a medical emergency. When the symptoms start, you should call 999 and say you may be having a stroke.
“Urgently investigating and treating people who have a TIA or minor stroke could reduce their risk of having another stroke by 80 per cent.”
To find out more, please visit www.stroke.org.uk