This week is National Stroke Week and the Stroke Foundation is encouraging Aussies to take the health condition more seriously than ever.
In 2018 alone, more than 56,000 people will experience a stroke in Australia. That’s the equivalent of one stroke every nine minutes. Now, the latest figures show that’s on track to increase to one stroke every four minutes, and the Stroke Foundation is warning Australians that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“Twenty strokes each day are happening to people of working age, but it does not have to be this way,” Stroke Foundation spokesperson Teresa Howarth said. “Stroke can impact anyone of any age, but the good news is more than 80 percent of strokes may be prevented.”
Strokes attack the brain and impact the body’s human control centre. This can happen very quickly, but change the lives of those impacted for life. In some cases, people die as a result of a stroke.
One of the key messages of National Stroke Week is for people to understand how easy it is to make healthy lifestyle changes which in turn, reduce the risk of a stroke.
“An ageing population and our modern lifestyle are putting us at greater risk of a stroke and other chronic disease,” Howarth said. “As a society, we aren’t getting enough exercise and don’t always make the right choices regarding what we eat and drink.”
Visiting a GP is one of the best things people can do when it comes to their health, while many local pharmacies across the country offer a free digital health check to learn more about stroke risk factors. Meanwhile, asking a GP for blood pressure checks and to assess the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation is also useful. These conditions can be managed to reduce the likelihood of a stroke.
Staying active is one of the major lifestyle changes people can make. High body fat can increase blood pressure and high cholesterol. Where possible, people should aim for between two-and-a-half to five hours of exercise each week.
Read more: What happens to your health after a stroke
Similar to exercise, eating well is equally important when it comes to reducing the risk of stroke. Reducing levels of salt is a great place to start, while keeping away from fizzy drinks is also beneficial. And while drinking in moderation is recommended, large intakes of alcohol increases blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and an irregular heartbeat – all of which contribute to a stroke.
Another habit to kick is smoking, given smokers have twice the risk of experiencing a stroke than non-smokers.
“Every step counts towards a healthy life,” Howarth concluded.