South Asians are at a higher risk of suffering a stroke than the general population so are being are urged to call 999 if they spot signs of stroke to prevent death or permanent disability.

The Act FAST campaign by Public Health England and the Stroke Association urges people to dial 999 if they spot signs of a stroke so that the person having a stroke can get to hospital within the vital three-hour window.

FAST: Facial weakness – has their face fallen on one side? Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms and keep them there? Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and is their speech slurred? It is time to call 999.

A person loses two million nerve cells every minute they do not receive medical treatment during a stroke.

Nerve cells are the core components of the brain, spinal cord and central nervous system and the more that are lost, the greater the chance of slurred speech, paralysis and permanent disability.

If left untreated, a stroke can result in permanent disability or death.

Stroke is the largest cause of disability in the UK, with 85% of people requiring physiotherapy.

The latest campaign is launched to coincide with World Stroke Day last week.

Research from the Stroke Association illustrates the devastating impact of stroke, which causes a greater range of disabilities than any other condition in the UK.

Over half of all survivors have a disability and more than a third are left dependent on others.

BBC presenters Sunny and Shay Grewal said: “It is so important to be aware of stroke symptoms and Act Fast – Sunny’s great-uncle is a living example of the positive impact of this campaign.”

Shay continues: “Sunny’s cousin realised that his grandfather was having a stroke because he had seen the advertising. Not only did knowing the symptoms and acting FAST save his life, but it improved the quality and speed of his recovery.”

Dr Ann Hoskins, director of Children, Young People and Families with Public Health England, said: “Every minute really does count and delaying treatment can have serious consequences.

“We are urging everyone to stay alert to the signs of stroke and to seek immediate medical attention if they notice any of the symptoms in others.

“The faster a stroke is treated, the better the chances of a good recovery.”

Sunetra Sarker, who plays Dr Zoe Hanna in BBC drama Casualty and is a campaign supporter, said: “Playing the role I do, we have storylines about stroke so I am lucky to have been made aware of the tell-tale signs – but there is a lot of work to be done.”

Chef Tony Singh and campaign supporter said: “The statistics are shocking and when you realise every minute really does count, we need to make sure that everyone in our network and community knows what to do if they see even one of the symptoms of a stroke.

“Asians are around twice as likely to have a stroke than white people so we need to do double the work, not only to reduce the risk of stroke through a better and healthier lifestyle, but also to improve awareness of the symptoms.”