Strokes are one of Australia’s biggest killers and leading cause of disability. 1 in 6 Australians will have a stroke in their lifetime, so it’s important to know what it is and how to recognise it.
All strokes are medical emergencies. The longer a stroke remains untreated, the more likely it is to cause irreversible brain damage. Early recognition of the signs of stroke in yourself or someone you know allows quicker access to emergency medical treatment, which improves the chances of survival and successful rehabilitation.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. This happens if an artery gets blocked (ischaemic stroke), or if it bursts and causes a bleed in the brain (haemorrhagic stroke). Interrupted blood supply to the brain causes brain cells to die, which results in an area of brain damage called a ‘cerebral infarct’. This may lead to temporary or permanent disability, or even death in severe cases.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
Risk factors for stroke include:
Family history of stroke
Atrial fibrillation (a heart condition where the heart beat is irregular)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Obesity or being overweight
Poor diet and lack of exercise
Excessive alcohol consumption
How do I know if someone is having a stroke?
The Stroke Foundation recommends the F.A.S.T. test as an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke.
Face: Is their mouth drooping?
Arms: Are they unable to lift both arms?
Speech: Is their speech slurred, or are they having difficulty understanding you?
Time: Is critical.
However, whilst facial drooping, arm weakness and difficulty with speech are the most common signs of stroke, they are not the only signs.
Other signs of stroke include:
Weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body
Difficulty speaking or understanding
Dizziness, loss of co-ordination or balance, or an unexplained fall
Blurring or sudden loss of vision
Abrupt onset of a severe headache, or unexplained change in pattern of headaches
These signs can occur alone or in combination, and can last for a few seconds or persist. If the symptoms disappear completely within 24 hours, this episode could be a ‘mini’ stroke, also known as a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA).
If you see ANY of the signs of stroke, in yourself or someone else, call 000 straight away.
If you are worried about your risk of having a stroke or think you may have experienced symptoms of a stroke or TIA in the past, please come in and see one of our friendly GPs – call 8269 6000 to book an appointment.
Stroke Foundation 2017, ‘Preventing stroke,’ , https://strokefoundation.org.au/en/About-Stroke/Preventing-stroke
Stroke Foundation 2017, ‘Stroke risk factors,’ , https://strokefoundation.org.au/About-Stroke/Preventing-stroke/Stroke-risk-factors
Stroke Foundation 2017, ‘Stroke symptoms,’ , https://strokefoundation.org.au/About-Stroke/Stroke-symptoms
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