In light of predictions of increased stroke cases over the next decade, the Stroke Foundation is this year reinforcing the need to seek help quickly when a stroke occurs, a move welcomed by a local stroke survivor.

For the last two years the foundation has run a FAST campaign highlighting the symptoms and response to a stroke - standing for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 111.

This year, however, more emphasis was being put on the need to react quickly when calling emergency services, with Time replaced by Take Action - call 111.

"While people have taken on board the main signs of stroke, we want to really underline that a stroke is a medical emergency - a brain attack - and to get help immediately," said Stroke Foundation chief executive Mark Vivian.

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"We don't want people calling their doctor, or waiting for symptoms to pass.

"Anywhere in the country, young or old, please call 111 immediately and get help - taking action immediately gives a stroke patient the best chance of making a strong recovery."

Hastings man Tony Hurrelbrink, who chairs the Hastings Stroke Club and had a stroke himself in October 2004, echoed the need for taking action quickly.

"I was fortunate, I was with family and my mother seemed to recognise something was untoward - I did not have any idea what was happening, all I thought was my legs were not moving properly when I was getting out of the car."

He said his mother called an ambulance immediately and he ended up spending about four months in hospital in recovery, and was lucky to not have lost his ability to speak or suffer ongoing eyesight problems.

He did, however, suffer a loss of mobility, including not being able to use his left arm, and he said any push to raise awareness was valuable.

The Hastings Stroke Club was a support group that met once a month, and also took part in annual stroke awareness campaigns, he said.

The Hastings Stroke Club is affiliated to Stroke Central Region Inc - an independent organisation that provide all of the services to Stroke Survivors in Hastings and throughout the Central Region.

When Hurrelbrink had his stroke, although time was still of the essence, the clot dissolving drugs and technology being offered now were not available.

Vivian said these drugs could now halt or reverse the damage caused by a stroke, but they had to be administered as soon as possible.

Before last year's FAST campaign, St John was attending about 160 suspected stroke incidents every week, but this rose to 196 incidents a week during the campaign.

"We've heard from people who saw the FAST message, never expecting to use it – then found it helped them save someone after a stroke," Vivian said.

Recent research by Otago University predicted a sharp rise in stroke cases over the next decade unless better prevention measures were put in place.

"We really don't want these forecasts to become a reality - we want people to lower their stroke risk by living healthy, active lives and make sure those predictions don't come true. It's not too late."

Lee Pownall, CEO, Stroke Central Region Inc, said the FAST message is extremely important in reducing the affects of a stroke, but it is only a limiting factor, whats more important is that strokes don't happen in the first place - we are trying to educate the public and encourage them to live healthy lifestyles and the more people that can do that, the better!

Stroke Central encourage anyone who wants more information, a visit from a local Field Officer or even to find out how to get involved with the Hastings Stroke Club to call 0800 298 858.