Here are some alarming statistics about strokes:
- More than 475,000 Australians are living with the effects of stroke, which is predicted to increase to a million by 2050.
- Stroke is still one of Australia’s biggest killers, killing more people each year than cancer kills.
- Stroke is also one of the leading causes of disability in Australia.
Perhaps the most important statistic is that more than 80% of strokes can still be prevented.
National Stroke Week is an annual event focused to create and spread awareness to recognise the risk factors associated with strokes and understand the vital signs to identify one. Being able to identify the signs of a stroke can potentially save lives.
A stroke is a medical condition that can happen to anyone at any age, killing more than 10,000 Australian each year.
Although strokes can be deadly, making a couple of small changes or tweaks to your lifestyle can bring about great changes in reducing your risk of stroke.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the flow of blood is cut off from a part of the brain either caused due to clotting or bleeding in your brain. Because a stroke is sudden and almost needs immediate medical intervention, it is sometimes also referred to as a brain attack.
A major stroke can lead to death or permanent disability, a reason why strokes are always considered a medical emergency.
While almost all strokes are caused when the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen due to clotting, strokes can also occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures impacting the surrounding brain tissues which are commonly called brain hemorrhage.
The two types of Strokes
The kind of stroke we suffer from depends on the ways your brain loses its blood supply. Based on the ways, we can identify two main types of strokes:
Ischemic Stroke – when part of your brain loses blood flow due to a clot in your artery. This type accounts for almost 80% of all the stroke cases in the world.
Hemorrhagic Stroke – this kind of stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts that cause bleeding (hemorrhages) leading and deprives the brain with oxygenated blood. It can create pressure on the nearby cells and damage it permanently.
Recognise the symptoms and think F.A.S.T
Stroke Foundation, an Australian charity that aims to raise awareness to prevent and mitigate stroke, suggests FAST as an easy way to recognise signs of a stroke. Since a stroke is always a medical emergency, it is important to be able to recognise the signs and act quickly.
If you think you might be suffering from one, quick medical intervention can save your life and improve the chances of successful rehabilitation.
FACE – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
ARM – Can they lift your arms?
SPEECH – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
TIME – If you recognise any of these, call 000 and try getting quick medical help.
Know your risk factors
Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level is necessary to reduce the risk of a stroke as excess blood sugar level causes damage to the circulatory system.
Talking to your local GP to do regular blood tests and maintaining a healthy weight is vital for keeping strokes away.
The more you smoke, the more you put yourself at risk for suffering from a stroke. Smoking causes enhanced blood pressure as nicotine and carbon monoxide thickens the blood and increases blood clotting.
High Blood Pressure
Higher blood pressure is one of the most common reasons for strokes. It causes damage to the blood vessel walls eventually leading to a stroke.
A regular blood pressure check is vital for your stroke health. This guide advises on blood pressure causes stroke and discusses how medication and lifestyle choices can be effective for your stroke health.
Excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to a number of risk factors associated with strokes including higher blood pressure, diabetes, overweight and significant liver damage.
Key messages from stroke awareness campaigns
1: Know your health stats – It is advised to know the details of your health stats. For example, a regular blood test can identify possible complications, keeping track of your blood glucose level, cholesterol and many vital health stats.
Our Chronic Disease Management plan includes tests that can identify your personal risk factors for strokes.
2: Maintain a healthy weight and nutrition – Lead an active life and keep a track of your food consumption. It is vital to keep a healthy weight for maintaining optimum blood pressure level that reduces the risk of strokes.
3: Quit smoking – Seek help from health professionals if you want to leave smoking.
4: Regular visit to doctors – For any health issues, maintaining a close relationship with your local GP is very important.
There are some risk factors like your age or your family medical history that are out of your control. However, you can reduce your risk by working with your doctors and going for regular medical check-ups.
Your doctors can help identify your risk factors and calculate your overall risk of stroke. Seeking professional help and adopting healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet and reducing alcohol consumption and smoking can help decrease your risks.