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Irish Heart Foundation FAST Awareness Week, 27 July-2 August 2015

If you or a family member was having a stroke, would you know it? This is the question the Irish Heart Foundation was asking the nation during its annual Act F.A.S.T. awareness week last week and the national stroke and heart charity says it’s still crucial to ensure people know the signs of stroke, which can often be subtle or misunderstood.

Nearly 10,000 people suffer a stroke in Ireland annually according to the Irish Heart Foundation which is more than one stroke happening every hour, but only half of the population would call 999 in the event of a stroke.

Supporting the charity’s efforts to spread the FAST message, Fair City’s acting legend Jim Bartley said: “Everyone – children and adults - needs to know the Irish Heart Foundation’s FAST message and most importantly, T – TIME TO CALL 999 at the first sign of stroke. I’ve had firsthand experience of stroke and I can tell you, I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. When it did, it came out of nowhere. A stroke happens so quickly. I am one of the lucky ones who got to hospital for treatment immediately. In today’s world, everyone has a mobile phone, even children, and we need to call 999 as soon as we suspect stroke. It could save the life of someone you know.”

Jim, who plays well-loved Bela Doyle, knows all about the ‘real thing’ having suffered a stroke in June 2011. In 2012, for his bravery in sharing his story and advocating the FAST message, Jim was awarded the Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Ambassador Award. He has remained a keen ambassador for the charity ever since and firmly believes everyone, young and old, should know the FAST message.

Stroke is the third biggest killer in Ireland and claims 2,000 lives here a year which is why the Irish Heart Foundation has targeted 250 local FAST awareness campaigns around the country in local hospitals, communities and stroke support groups using posters and flyers carrying the lifesaving FAST message.

The F.A.S.T. acronym stands for:
- Face – has their face fallen on one side?
- Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
- Speech – is their speech slurred?
- Time – time to call 999 if you see any one of these signs.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation times means brain because the average stroke kills two million brain cells every minute. But the quicker a person can get emergency treatment, the more of their brain can be saved.

Irish Heart Foundation Head of Advocacy, Chris Macey said: “The reality is that a stroke is a medical emergency and it’s vital that as many people as possible can recognise the signs when stroke strikes and that they call 999 without delay. People in Ireland are often reluctant to call 999 because they don’t want to waste time if it turns out to be nothing but the reality is that emergency departments would far rather send someone home well than have a patient present too late to be saved. Time is brain and a lot more lives could be saved in Ireland and a lot more stroke sufferers could be spared from severe disability requiring long-term institutional care if more people acted on the warning signs by calling 999.”

A previous Irish Heart Foundation survey of the public showed that when asked what’s the first thing they would do if they thought they were having a stroke, just 52% of the public said they would call an ambulance, whilst 23% said they would tell a family member, friend or neighbour and 12% said they would call their GP.

For more information about stroke see the Irish Heart Foundation’s website or talk to an Irish Heart Foundation nurse on the national heart and stroke helpline, Locall 1890 432 787.

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