What You Need to Know About Strokes

Did you know that a stroke occurs somewhere in the world every two seconds, with six fatal strokes happening every minute? This equates to 15 million people a year who suffer a stroke, approximately six million of which are fatal. Indeed, stroke is responsible for more deaths annually than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria all put together.

Stroke can often be brought about by inevitable factors like ageing and your family’s medical history, in addition to preventable factors such as a poor diet, excessive smoking or lack of exercise. The warning signs to look out for include weakness on one side of the body, slurring of speech and a difficulty in maintaining balance. When stroke occurs, it could easily be fatal, and even in cases where the victim survives, his/her life is turned upside down. Difficulties with swallowing, communicating, vision and movement are likely to ensue.

To learn more about stroke, its causes and consequences, plus how to care for a person who has survived a stroke, take a look at the infographic below from Home Care Plus (http://www.homecareplus.ie/palliative-care).

What You Need to Know About Stroke
What You Need to Know About Stroke

Air embolism – what are the signs and symptoms of the bends

Air embulism and the bends
Air embolism and the bends


An air or gas embolism is a bubble that becomes trapped in a blood vessel and blocks it. This can lead to many different symptoms depending on where the blockage occurs. It’s one of the leading causes of death among divers.

An air or gas embolism can happen when a scuba diver surfaces too quickly from any depth. This can cause air to escape into the blood vessels from the lungs (pulmonary barotrauma) or bubbles of nitrogen to form in the blood vessels (decompression illness, or “the bends”).

An embolism can develop in an artery or vein. When an air bubble travels along an artery, it moves through a system of blood vessels that gradually become narrower. At some point, the bubble may block a small artery and cut off the blood supply to a particular area of the body.

Bubbles in the veins travel around the body and can cause breathing difficulties when they reach the lungs.

How serious is it?

The seriousness of the blockage depends on which part of the body the affected blood vessel supplies blood to and the size of the air bubble. For example, an air embolism in:

  • the arteries to the brain can cause immediate loss of consciousness and may lead to seizures (fits) or a stroke – it can also cause confusion, dizziness and slurred speech
  • the coronary arteries (which lead to the heart) may cause a heart attack or an abnormal heart rhythm
  • a blood vessel to the lungs may cause a pulmonary embolism

These conditions are very serious and can be fatal, particularly if an air embolism is not recognised and treated promptly.

Even with treatment, some people who survive are left with permanent brain damage, although this is very rare.

Warning signs

Divers should always be carefully monitored by their colleagues and supervisors so any air or gas embolism can be immediately identified and treated.

Signs and symptoms of an air embolism can include:

  • joint or muscle pains
  • low blood pressure, which may cause dizziness
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • breathlessness and fast breathing
  • blurred vision
  • chest pain
  • strong feelings of anxiety and itching of the skin
  • a faint blue tone to the skin (cyanosis)
  • bloody froth from the mouth
  • paralysis or weakness, possibly of one or more limbs
  • seizures (fits)
  • loss of consciousness

If a scuba diver develops these symptoms within 10 to 20 minutes of surfacing, they probably have an air embolism and should be given 100% oxygen and transferred to hospital as soon as possible, preferably one with a recompression chamber.

Treating air embolisms

If a diver develops an air embolism, the only effective treatment is immediate recompression treatment in a special pressurised room called a hyperbaric chamber.

The diver should be given 100% oxygen and laid horizontally until they reach the hyperbaric chamber.

Recompression treatment involves lying in a hyperbaric chamber, usually for several hours, and breathing a mixture of gases and oxygen under pressure. The high pressure can restore normal blood flow and oxygen to the body’s tissues and reduce the size of the air bubbles in the body.

In cases of decompression sickness, the pressure forces the bubbles of nitrogen to dissolve back into the bloodstream.

After recompression, pressure is reduced gradually to allow the gases to leave the body without worsening the problem, similar to surfacing slowly from a dive. Treatment might be continued for several days depending on the severity of symptoms.

Preventing an air embolism while diving

The following advice can help reduce your risk of developing an air or gas embolism when diving.

  • Limit the depth and duration of your dives.
  • Come up to the surface slowly and always perform safety stops to allow any air in your tissues and blood vessels to escape safely. Use a dive computer or dive tables, and don’t dive again if you have broken these rules until you have had a suitable time at the surface.
  • Don’t dive with a cold, cough or chest infection.
  • Avoid rigorous exercise before, during and after a dive.
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated before diving.
  • If planning several dives, leave adequate surface intervals between dives to allow the nitrogen to leave your body.
  • After diving, wait for 24 hours before flying or going to a higher altitude.

If in doubt, contact a dive professional or doctor, who can provide further advice.

Other causes of air embolisms

Air embolisms also occur during surgery or other medical procedures, but this is rare.

In hospitals and health centres, care should be taken to prevent this. For example:

  • before injections, air should be removed from syringes and intravenous lines
  • catheters or other tubes inserted into the body should be inserted and removed using a technique that minimises the possibility of air getting into the blood vessels
  • patients should be closely monitored to help ensure air bubbles don’t form in blood vessels during surgery

Air embolisms resulting from surgery, anaesthesia or other medical procedures can be difficult to treat. Treatment is usually needed to support the heart, blood vessels and lungs.

For example, fluids may be used to treat a fall in blood pressure and oxygen may be given to reduce levels of other gases in the blood vessels

Are you doing enough to look after your heart?

Are you doing enough to look after your heart?
Are you doing enough to look after your heart?

Heart-related problems are the UK’s biggest killer. Coronary heart disease causes 73,000 deaths annually, while over 30,000 people suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest per year.

These statistics highlight just how important it is to look after your heart. Every day, your heart works hard for you, beating 100,000 times and pumping 23,000 litres of blood around your body – but are you returning the favour?

To ensure you’re taking all the right steps to look after your heart health, we’ve shared some of our easy tips to help get your started.

Your diet

The type of food you eat is so important to your heart. A healthy and balanced diet will help keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol under control. It can also reduce the risk of diabetes and help cut down on the risk of certain cancers.

You should try and eat a diet which contains the following:

  • Five portions of fruit and vegetables
  • Starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice
  • Non-dairy sources of protein such as meat, fish, eggs and beans
  • Some milk and dairy foods
  • A small amount of fat and sugar

You should attempt to reduce your total saturated fat intake and only have foods like butter, hard cheese, fatty meat, biscuits and cakes in moderation. You should also limit your sugar intake, as foods that contain lots of sugar also contain calories which can lead to weight gain.

When people are looking to lose weight, they often try faddy crash diets. These may help you lose weight quickly, but they are more often than not unsustainable and can limit your body from getting the nutrients it requires. Stick to a balanced diet, and in time you will see better results that will be long lasting.

How active are you?

Staying fit and active is key to looking after your heart. Not only is it proven to reduce heart disease and improve how your heart works, but regular activity can also help lower your blood pressure, help with weight management and maintain your cholesterol levels.

It can be a challenge to start exercising if you don’t already enjoy it, but you don’t have to start running marathons straight away. Initially, you should aim to do at least 10 minutes of activity per day. This means activity that makes you feel warm and slightly out of breath, so anything from jogging and cycling, to climbing stairs or brisk walks.


If you are a smoker, giving up cigarettes is so important when looking after your heart. Smokers are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to those who have never smoked, and even those breathing in secondhand smoke can develop heart problems.

The ingredients in cigarettes can damage the lining of your arteries, increase your blood pressure and heart rate, reduce the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to your heart, and even increase the development of blood clots.

If you stop smoking, after a year of being smoke free your chances of a heart attack falls to about half of that of a smoker. Even though it can be hard, it’s never too late to stop smoking, and your body will quickly thank you for it.

Drinking alcohol

Drinking more than the recommended alcohol allowance can have a really damaging effect on your heart, as well as other parts of your body.

Drinking more than 14 units per week can lead to increased blood pressure, weight gain and higher risk of heart disease. Cutting back on the alcohol is necessary to ensuring your heart’s strength.

There are so many healthy, delicious recipes out there, as well as fun ways to keep active, so looking after your heart doesn’t need to be a chore. If you try to eat a balanced and healthy diet, keep active, avoid smoking and drink within the recommended alcohol limits, you will have the best chance of keeping your heart healthy.

Rosa Mitchell is a guest blogger from defibshop, the UK’s leading independent defibrillator supplier. Check out their Visual Guide to a Healthy Heart for more information on heart health.

Be Aware of Early Warning Signs of a Stroke


Have you or a loved one ever had a stroke? It can be a frightening thing to experience. Strokes are the leading cause of death and the risk of permanent disability for many in the United States. When it comes to your health and well-being, it is important to be aware of signs of a potential danger. There are ways to prevent a negative outcome and even death. Being aware of the factors that lead to a stroke as well as preventative measures is very important to keep in mind.

The Side Effects & Risks

Not only are strokes the leading cause of death for thousands of patients each year, they can also lead to permanent brain damage. The major cause of strokes is clogging of an artery in the brain, low blood pressure, and blood clots. The risk factors include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and heart disease. Unhealthy habits and even stress can affect the immune system leaving room for sickness and disease.

It is important to be aware of the signs of a stroke so that you can be prepared to take immediate action if needed. As a patient, you have the right to be informed and have a level of control over your health to prevent a stroke that can have potential permanent adverse effects on your health and future, especially in the case of a delayed medical diagnoses. Seeking legal advice along with medical assistance can prove to be beneficial and even preventative.

Physical Signs of a Stroke

The following are early warning signs of a stroke:

Numbness of the face or arm. The loss of voluntary movement or sensations is a sure sign of a stroke. Usually these are followed by heart palpitations. It is important to be aware of these signs in order to take immediate action.

Confusion. If a person finds themselves unable to process thoughts or speak coherently this could be a sign of a serious problem. It can be accompanied by a slurring of words and even foaming at the mouth. Make sure to ask them questions to see if they respond back to you. If they are unable to respond clearly or coherently it is a clear sign that the person is in need of immediate help.

Blurred vision. An inability to see clearly or even losing focus in one eye can be a sign of an issue. If the person complains of vision impairment, it can be a sure sign that they are in danger of experiencing a potentially life-altering stroke.

Trouble with walking or balance. If a person seems off balance or suddenly loses their step, it could be a signs of an impending stroke. If you notice irregularity in your movement it is important to seek the advice of a physician. Don’t wait to seek a medical checkup.

Be well-informed about your medical condition and ask your physician key questions about your health. One can never go wrong with preventative measures that add to their quality of life and prevent potential life-threatening disease. Often heart conditions will lead patients to make life-changing decisions like changing their eating habits, exercising or walking regularly, and cutting healthy habits from their lives.

It is important to be an active participant in your health and well-being. Take control of your health! Be well informed.

First aid – what to do when a heart attack occurs. help save a life.

Yesterday and over the next few days we are going to be taking a closer look at some basic First Aid tips.

Today we going to look at what to do when a heart attack takes place.

Remember that a few minutes of your time now can save a life in the future!

What to do when a heart attack occurs

What to do when a heart attack occurs [Infographic] by the team at imperative training