It’s National Stroke Week.
It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of strokes can be prevented simply by managing risk factors and living a healthy lifestyle, according to the Stroke Foundation.
There are some risk factors for stroke which can’t be prevented like age, family history and prior stroke. If you’re male, your risk is also higher.
The Stroke Foundation suggests that there are two ways to approach this: first by talking to your doctor and secondly by taking ownership of your own health.
By taking charge of your own health, you can:
- Eat well.
- Stay active.
- Be smoke free.
- Moderate alcohol intake.
- Visit your doctor for a health check to help manage blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat).
Would you know what to do if a loved one of yours had a stroke?
The Stroke Foundation recommends the F.A.S.T test as an easy way to identify the most common signs of stroke.
Face – check their face. Has their mouth dropped?
Arms – can they lift both arms?
Speech – is their speech slurred?
Time – it is critical.
Other signs of stroke may include:
- Weakness or numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body
- Difficulty speaking or understanding
- Dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall
- Loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes
- Headache, usually severe and abrupt onset
- Difficulty swallowing
What should you do if a stroke happens to a loved one?
If you see any of the above signs of a stroke, please call Emergency Services on 000 immediately.
The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke-related brain damage.
Facial weakness, arm weakness and difficulty with speech are the most common symptoms or signs of stroke.
What to do while you wait for an ambulance
- If the person is conscious, lie them down on their side with their head slightly raised and supported.
- Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
- Loosen any tight clothing that could cause breathing difficulties.
- If they are unconscious, check their breathing.
- If they do not have a pulse or are not breathing start CPR straight away.
- If you are unsure how to perform CPR, the ambulance call taker can provide you with instructions over the phone.
What is a stroke?
A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood is carried to the brain by blood vessels called arteries. Blood contains oxygen and important nutrients for your brain cells. Blood may be interrupted or stop moving through an artery because the artery is blocked (ischaemic stroke) or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke).
When brain cells do not get enough oxygen or nutrients, they die. The area of brain damage during a stroke is called a cerebral infarct.
The signs of stroke may occur alone or in any combination and can last a few seconds or up to 24 hours and then disappear. When the symptoms disappear within 24 hours, this episode may be a mini stroke.
Stroke related brain damage
A stroke is always a medical emergency. The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke related brain damage. The chance of survival after stroke improves after emergency medical treatment is given.
Such medical treatment can include the administering of a drug known as tPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator). It breaks down the blood clots that cause an ischaemic stroke and can assist in a person’s recovery from a stroke, but can also cause bleeding in the brain. It is usually administered within 4.5 hours of a stroke by experienced specialists and after a CT scan has been conducted. It is not a drug suitable for everyone.
Statistics on stroke
According to the Stroke Foundation, stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer every year.
It is one of the biggest causes of death and disability in Australia.
Strokes are preventable. Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent one:
- Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the most important stroke risk factors and is the simplest to manage.
- Be smoke-free.
- Enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods from the five food groups everyday. Drink plenty of water.
- Be active everyday.
- Limit your alcohol intake. For healthy men and women, drink no more than two standard drinks on any day.
(With thanks to the Stroke Foundation for information on strokes, how to respond to them and preventative steps to take to reduce their likelihood.)
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