Over 40,000 Australians suffer from stroke each year. Most of these cases, however, could be prevented or delayed by a healthy lifestyle and modern medicines.
What is a stroke?
A stroke or 'brain attack' is caused by a blockage in the flow of blood to an area of the brain or bleeding from a blood vessel in the brain. Strokes can cause permanent disability such as paralysis, loss of speech and difficulties with movement or balance. Warning signs include:
- Sudden blurred or decreased vision.
- Numbness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arm, leg or side of the body.
- Difficulty speaking or understanding.
- Dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Headache (usually severe or sudden).
These signs require urgent treatment even if they only last a short time. Call 000 for an ambulance or go straight to hospital. Quick action may avert a stroke or reduce its severity.
How to avoid a stroke
Treatment of these risk factors will greatly reduce your chance of stroke:
- Blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked every 2 years. If it is raised, take your medication correctly and have regular checkups.
- Smoking. Try to quit, especially if you are taking birth control pills.
- Diabetes. Maintain the best possible control of your blood sugar.
- Cholesterol. Have your cholesterol tested. If it is elevated, follow your doctor's advice on diet or medication.
- Irregular pulse (atrial fibrillation). Your doctor may prescribe medication.
Medicines to prevent stroke
'Antiplatelet' drugs, such as aspirin, thin the blood and may be recommended by your doctor if you are at high risk of having a stroke.
People who have already had a stroke are at greater risk of having another one. The latest research has shown that in these patients, certain medications used to lower blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk of further stroke, whether the blood pressure is raised or not. Many patients with a previous stroke are now being placed on these medications to prevent further episodes. Speak to your doctor if you have had a stroke before.
For more information speak to your GP or visit http://www.strokefoundation.com.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.