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This is what you need to know about strokes

Every nine minutes someone in Australia has a stroke. Experiencing a stroke can have a debilitating effect on a person’s life. In fact, 65% of people who have a stroke end up with a disability that impedes their daily activities. The good news is, you can reduce your risk of stroke by choosing a healthy lifestyle. Here are answers to five common questions about stroke.

What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is stopped due to a blocked or burst artery. Our brains rely on a constant supply of blood for oxygen and nutrients. When this flow is disrupted, our brain cells die. This can cause permanent brain damage or even death. The chances of surviving and minimising the damage caused by stroke are increased by receiving medical attention quickly.

Who is at risk of having a stroke?
According to the Stroke Foundation, the risk factors for stroke include smoking, being overweight, not exercising enough, having a poor diet, and drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis. You’re also at an increased risk if you have some conditions that affects your blood circulation. Examples are diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and atrial fibrillation. If you have a family history of stroke, you’re also at a greater risk. And, like with so many health conditions, your risk is increased if you’re aged over 65.

How can you tell if someone is having a stroke?
There are four words to remember when assessing whether someone is having a stroke: Face, Arms, Speech, Time. Or, FAST, for short. The Stroke Foundation says the FAST test is an easy way to recognise the signs of stroke by asking these questions. Has their mouth dropped? (Face.) Can they lift both arms? (Arms) Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you? (Speech) And lastly, time. It’s critical to get help quickly if the person is showing any of these signs.

What should I do if someone is having a stroke?
If you think someone is having a stroke, act immediately – it’s a medical emergency. As the Brain Foundation says, ‘time lost is brain lost’. Call triple zero (000).

Can you prevent a stroke?
A global study published in The Lancet found that more than 80% of strokes can be prevented. Yes, it’s all usual healthy lifestyle advice you’ve heard before. While you can’t alter your genes or age, you can make good lifestyle choices. Exercise regularly. Choose nutrient-rich foods. Maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking. Limit your alcohol intake.

Chat to your doctor about how you can reduce your risk of stroke. Your GP can assess your risk of stroke and advise you on the best ways to improve your health, such as losing weight and quitting smoking.

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