Learn the signs of Stroke

31 August 2020

A stroke happens every seven minutes in Australia with more than 56,000 strokes experienced by Australians each year. During National Stroke Week (31 Aug – 6 Sept), NT Health, is encouraging Territorians to learn more about strokes, risk factors and how to prevent strokes.

Around 200 to 250 patients per year are admitted to Royal Darwin hospital with a diagnosis of stroke. Royal Darwin Hospital Lead Neurologist Dr Alvaro Cervera said a stroke happens when blood cannot get to your brain, because of a blocked or burst artery. “As a result, your brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. More than 475,000 Australians are living with the effects of stroke,” Dr Cervera said. 

The F.A.S.T. test

The F.A.S.T. test as an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke. Using the F.A.S.T. test involves asking these simple questions:

  • Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arms: Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time: Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.

Dr Cervera said sometimes the signs disappear within a short time, such as a few minutes. When this happens, it may be a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). After a TIA, your risk of stroke is higher.

“Stroke can lead to death or disability. A TIA is a warning that you may have a stroke and an opportunity to prevent this from happening.”

More than 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.

6 Steps to reducing stroke risk

“The six steps to reducing stroke risk include:

  1. lowering cholesterol
  2. lowering blood pressure
  3. reducing alcohol consumption
  4. eating a healthy diet
  5. doing regular exercise
  6. and quitting smoking.

These lifestyle factors can go a long way to reducing the risk of stroke but there are also some risk factors that can’t be controlled including age, gender and a family history of stroke. Unfortunately risk factors are higher as people get older and stroke is also more common in men,” Dr Cervera said.

He said people showing stroke symptoms should attend the Emergency Department at RDH as soon as possible, where the stroke unit are able to perform treatments in the acute phase.

“Each person affected by stroke will have different problems and different needs.”

Some effects of stroke can include weakness on one side of the body, including arms and legs; Problems controlling or coordinating movements; personality and behaviour changes; Having uncontrollable outbursts of emotion without cause; problems speaking and understanding, or with reading and writing; vision loss; incontinence or fatigue.

Dr Cervera said Rehabilitation Services at Palmerston Regional Hospital consists of a multi-disciplinary team who provide care to patients who have had a stroke. The team is made up of a psychologist, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers, dietitian, Aboriginal Liaison Officer, therapy assistants, doctors and nurses.

“The team work in the new 24 bed state of the art rehabilitation unit at PRH, which is a wonderful facility to help stroke patients work to redevelop skills that have been lost due to stroke,” Dr Cervera said. 

Source: Northern Territory Government, Department of Health Media Release 31 August 2020

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