In 2020, 27,428 Australians suffered a stroke for the first time, and without adequate education and proper support for healthcare services, this number is expected to blow out to 50,600 by 2050.
Stroke is among Australia’s biggest killers and according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain suddenly becomes blocked which is known as an ischaemic stroke or when there is a rupture and bleeding occurs, known as a haemorrhagic stroke.
Following a stroke, functions such as communication and movement can become impaired. Some of the risk factors that can contribute to a stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and smoking.
Older age is also a considerable risk factor with those aged over 65 accounting for 2 in 3 (71 per cent) of those who suffered from a stroke.
Blooms The Chemist Pharmacist Owner, Melanie Moses puts this increased risk down to changes within the body that often come with age.
“Strokes are most prevalent in people over the age of 60 compared to any other age group,” she said.
“The main reason for this is that when we age, our arteries naturally become narrower and harder. This makes it easier for fatty materials to become clogged.”
Despite the alarming statistics over 80 per cent of strokes could be prevented through proper management and leading a healthy lifestyle.
As part of National Stroke Week (8–14 August), the prevalence and impact and stroke come to the fore with Australians being given a timely reminder to not only recognize the warning signs of a stroke but to also take preventative action.
With the devastating health impacts and the prevalence of strokes well and truly in the spotlight, Starts at 60 spoke further with Blooms The Chemist Pharmacist Owner, Melanie Moses to understand the signs to be aware of when a stroke occurs, the risk factors that can contribute to a stroke and what preventive measure can be taken to reduce the risk.
According to the Stroke Foundation, 40 per cent of Australians do not recognise the signs of a stroke and as a result, fail to seek the necessary medical care in a timely manner.
The chances of stroke-related brain damage can significantly increase the longer a stroke is left untreated, therefore it is essential to have an understanding of what warning signs to be on the lookout for.
“If people have a greater understanding and identify the early signs of a stroke and seek immediate medical attention, this could be lifesaving or significantly change the trajectory of its impact,” Moses said.
Some of the telltale signs of a stroke can include numbness or weakness (particularly in the face, arms, or legs), confusion, slurred speech or difficulty speaking, vision loss, dizziness, and severe headache.
In order to accurately recognise the signs of a stroke in a timely manner, Moses recommends the following acronym.
“F.A.S.T. or B.E.F.A.S.T. is an acronym that people can memorise to know how to evaluate the warning signs that you or someone you are with are experiencing a stroke,” she explained.
Face – check their face, has their mouth drooped
Arms – can they lift both arms?
Speech – is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time – time is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.
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In most cases, strokes can be preventable given they are associated with lifestyle-related risk factors that can be managed to decrease one’s risk. However, when it comes to risk factors such as family, history, age, gender, and ethnic background reducing the risk can become more difficult.
Regardless, Moses suggests talking to your GP in order to assess your risk and manage it appropriately.
“A conversation and a deeper understanding of the potential causes may reduce the chances of
having a stroke,” Moses said.
Moses highlighted some of the “lifestyle and hereditary factors” to be aware of that can increase the risk of stroke.
“Some of the risk factors that will increase your risk of stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, having diabetes, and having an irregular pulse (contributing to one-third of strokes),” she said.
“If you have had a stroke previously, your risk of having another one is greater. Men are also more likely to have a stroke than women.
“Other lifestyle factors that may increase a person’s risk of stroke include smoking, eating a diet high in salt and fat, an inactive lifestyle, or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
“We also know that as we age, the likelihood of experiencing a stroke increases. Around two-thirds of stroke victims are over the age of 65.”
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Given the often devastating health impacts of a stroke, prevention is certainly favourable to cure in this instance.
While some risk factors can mean a greater chance of stroke and “even those considered to live a healthy lifestyle can suffer a stroke” Moses stresses that “there are preventative measures that can be considered to avoid a stroke.”
“It is important to manage your blood pressure as this can be one of the biggest single risk factors for stroke, in fact, high blood pressure plays a part in about half of all strokes,” she said.
“Other preventative measures include stopping smoking, controlling diet factors by eating foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fats, and including fruits and vegetables regularly in your diet.”
The importance of exercise can never be understated when it comes to looking after your health and in regards to stroke, Moses recommends “regular exercise or even a brisk walk” to help reduce stroke risk.
Overall, Moses suggests that a greater understanding of stroke and your own personal risk are crucial to reducing the likelihood of a stroke.
“Regular check-ups including a stroke risk assessment are recommended to better understand your risk of stroke and speak to your healthcare professional on ways that are more tailored to you, to reduce your risk,’ she said.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.