Public Health Wales, the seven Health Boards, Community Pharmacy Wales and the Stroke Association have come together to run a month-long national public health campaign which will be run in all community pharmacies in Wales to help people lower their risk of stroke.
The Health and Social Care Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: "This campaign brings together two important strategic government health policies: greater use of community pharmacies and working with others to promote better public awareness of stroke risk factors. I strongly support this campaign and urge as many people as possible during May to visit their local pharmacy to find out their risk of stroke, how to reduce it and, where relevant, to have NHS Medicines Use Reviews or NHS Discharge Medicines Reviews."
Between 1st and 31st May, all 714 community pharmacies will be using Medicines Use Reviews to remind customers with high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation (AF) that they are at a higher risk of stroke if they do not take steps to control their conditions. Pharmacists will also advise people how to quickly recognise the signs of a stroke to limit damage in the brain and increase their chance of survival.
F.A.S.T, the stroke recognition test. Those who spot any of the following signs in themselves or others will be advised to seek urgent medical attention: Face – Has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile? Arms – Can they lift both arms and keep them there? Speech – Is their speech slurred? Time – Time to call 999
Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in Wales. There are many risk factors, but almost 40% of strokes due to clots are caused by high blood pressure and those with AF are five times more likely to have a stroke. By tackling these conditions it is thought that many of these strokes could be prevented.
Prof Mansel Aylward, Chair of Public Health Wales said: "Stroke is a massive killer in Wales, the fourth biggest. However, if people act fast and learn to recognise the signs, they can significantly increase their chance of survival and limit damage in the brain.
"We can all reduce our risk of stroke by making healthier lifestyle choices, including quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and doing more exercise. Everyone should take a few moments to remember the signs of a stroke, especially people with atrial fibrillation who are five times more likely to suffer from one. By working with pharmacists across Wales we can get this important message out to the people who are at greatest risk."
Chris James, Chair of Community Pharmacy Wales said "Community pharmacies are the most accessible part of the NHS family and are ideally placed in high streets, town centres and villages around Wales to be giving advice on how to avoid a stroke and to help people recover from one if you do get one. Throughout the month of May all 714 of us across Wales will be advising people what stroke risk they have and how to reduce that; giving free NHS Medicines Use Reviews to patients with hypertension or atrial fibrillation and giving free NHS Discharge Medicine Reviews to people who have had to go to hospital with a stroke to reconcile their medication when they get home to increase their chance of recovery. "
Ana Palazon, Director Cymru for the Stroke Association said:
"Pharmacies are an excellent place to reinforce the stroke prevention message. It is vital that those who are on medication for high blood pressure and / or AF take their medications properly to lower their risk of stroke. This campaign should also serve as a reminder to those who have a high risk of stroke in their family to get their blood pressure taken on a regular basis to ensure that they too are given proper medical treatment should the need arise".
For more information on stroke and how to cut your risk, visit the Stroke Association website www.stroke.org.uk or ring the stroke helpline on 0303 3033 100.