About 60,000 Australians have a stroke every year, with three-quarters being a first time stroke. It’s one of our biggest killers (more than breast cancer in women and more than prostate cancer in men). 80% is preventable, despite family history – here’s what you need to do if you’re at risk:
- Manage controllable risk factors – stop smoking, reduce alcohol, control blood pressure, lower cholesterol if high, stabilise diabetes, exercise and reduce weight
- Be aware of new symptoms and pick this up immediately for medical attention – consider the FAST acronym (Facial asymmetry, Arm weakness if raised, Speech irregularities and Time to medical intervention by acting quickly and dialing 000)
- For anyone already suffering stroke, make sure they are receiving proactive rehabilitation, including speech therapy to review swallowing, OT assessment to assess the need for home modifications and walking aids, physiotherapy to maximise function, muscle strength and range of movement
- Reduce the risk of complications such as urinary tract infections (UTI), pneumonia (pneumococcal and influenza vaccination, reviewing colds and flu early) and skin infection (check skin regularly to exclude pressure sores and rashes)
- Provide support in the home through community or nursing services, ensure social connection and flag to GP if any mental health symptoms, and encourage education through the Stroke Foundation websites, including patient education and for carers & clinicians
- Manage any ongoing risks such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, clotting (anti-platelet drugs or anticoagulant medications) and refer to vascular surgeons if there are blockages in neck arteries (diagnosed on Carotid ultrasound)
Be stroke aware and ensure risk factors are well managed, it could be the difference between life and death!