Stroke is the second biggest killer in Australia, after coronary heart disease. A stroke occurs somewhere in Australia every 10 minutes; 60,000 strokes will occur each year.
It is a mistake to refer to stroke as an accident, because almost always the underlying condition that causes stroke – cerebrovascular disease – is present for several years.
A stroke occurs when supply of blood to the brain is suddenly disrupted. Blood, which is normally carried to the brain by arteries, may not be able to get through because of blood clot, plaque buildup or a burst or broken artery.
Brain cells in the immediate area of the stroke are killed, and this can lead to severe disability for the sufferer. Inability to talk properly or use certain muscles is a common result.
Stroke is always a medical emergency and the sufferer needs to be taken to hospital with a Stroke Unit straight away.
The National Stroke Foundation recommends the FAST test to identify stroke.
F – facial weakness – can the person smile, or have their eyes and mouth drooped?
A – arm weakness – can the person raise both their arms?
S – speech difficulty – can the person speak clearly and understand what you are saying?
T – time to act – call 000 immediately
When the patient arrives in hospital, he or she will be treated with Tissue Plasminogen Activator, a drug that breaks down blood clots.
This is normally administered after a CT scan has confirmed the type of stroke.
Another treatment option is aspirin, but that is only recommended for ischaemic strokes (those caused by blood clots).
Lifestyle factors are very big when it comes to your chances of having a stroke.
By not smoking, not drinking alcohol (or not drinking very much), eating healthy foods and remaining physically active, you will greatly lower your risk of having a stroke.
Diabetes can also factor in, so make sure you talk to your doctor about it if you are a diabetic.
If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you need to deal with these immediately to reduce your chances of stroke.