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Only 50pc of us would call for ambulance after stroke

Just half the population would phone an ambulance immediately after a stroke attack, new research has revealed.

The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) described the results of the study as alarming and insisted more lives could be saved if people reacted faster.

Head of advocacy at the charity Chris Macey said while more people now recognise the signs of a stroke, not enough take the right action.

"These statistics are alarming because there's little point in people knowing when they're having a stroke if they don't know that the only reaction is to call an ambulance immediately," Mr Macey said.

"The average stroke destroys two million brain cells every minute, which means the quicker you get emergency treatment literally the more of your brain can be saved."

He said getting to hospital quickly has a "profound impact" on the outcome of a stroke.

"For those who delay it can mean the difference between walking out of hospital on your own steam within days of a stroke and spending the rest of your life in institutional care, or even death," he said.

As the IHF Fast Awareness Week begins on Monday, figures for the charity from Behaviour and Attitudes showed that only 52% of people would call an ambulance immediately after witnessing or experiencing a stroke.

Some 23% of respondents said their immediate reaction to a stroke would be to tell a family member, friend or neighbour and 12% said they would call their GP.

The IHF said while public awareness of stroke warning signs had increased by 190% since it launched its 'Act Fast' campaign three years ago, it was concerned such a low proportion would call an ambulance immediately.

According to the charity, stroke-related hospital admissions soared by 87% following the campaign launch in 2010 because people knew to go to hospital as soon as they recognised stroke symptoms.

Fast is an acronym to help people identify stroke symptoms: Face - has the face swollen? Arms - can they raise both arms? Speech - is their speech slurred? Time - time to call 999 in the event of any of these signs.

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"The survey proves that 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," Mr Macey said.

The study also found that 87% of people knew two or more stroke warning signs, while 7% could name one and 6% were unable to name any.

Respondents also identified numbness, weakness on one side, slurred speech and facial weakness as symptoms, as well as other warning signs including severe headache, dizziness and problems with vision.

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