This week is National Stroke Week (9-15th September 2013). It’s a timely reminder that you could save someone’s life or prevent further disability if you respond quickly to someone having a stroke.  A stroke is always a medical emergency. When a person having a stroke gets the critical treatment in time there is greater chance of survival & a full recovery. Stroke is the second most common cause of death in Australia.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This may be caused by a blockage (ischaemic stroke) or burst (haemorrhagic stroke) of the artery, which stops blood (and therefore oxygen and important nutrients) from getting to the brain cells. These cells then start to die and so the quicker the treatment to restore the blood supply to these cells, the better the chance for recovery. Some of these cells may recover if treatment is received within three hours of the stroke starting. If not, they will die and cause permanent damage.

The effects of stroke vary depending on which brain cells are affected. They range from paralysis to speech problems, short-term memory loss, poor coordination or balance and disability of other functions including bowel or bladder incontinence.

The former Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Pilbersek recently announced $2 million for a national stroke campaign that shows people how to recognise the signs of stroke and stresses the importance of responding to them fast.

So how would you know if someone is having a stroke? Remember FAST:

Face – has their mouth dropped?

Arms – can they lift both?

Speech – is it slurred? Can they understand you?

Time – is critical. Ring 000 immediately if you see any of these signs.

There are other signs too including:

  • Weakness or numbness or paralysis of the face, an arm or leg
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall
  • Loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • Headache, usually severe and abrupt onset or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches
  • Difficulty swallowing

There may be one symptom or multiple symptoms and they can last for just a few seconds or up to 24 hours and then disappear. If you are unsure, it is better to be safe than sorry and call 000 immediately.

There are approximately 375 000 stroke survivors in Australia.

So remember if you see the symptoms of someone having a stroke, then act FAST!

You’ll be getting lots of reminders in the coming year as the national stroke campaign will be presented regularly on TV, radio, the internet and in print!

For more information see the National Stroke Foundation website here.

Article written by Dr Melanie Woollam (Osteopath)



National Stroke Foundation: www.strokefoundation.com.au