September 3rd to 9th is National Stroke Week, which aims to raise awareness about one of Australia's biggest killers and a leading cause of disability. Despite these alarming statistics, many of us don't know what a stroke is or how to help someone who might be having one.
So to clear that up, Feras Karem, leading Pharmacist and CEO of Pharmacy 4 Less explains the essentials.
What’s happening when someone has a stroke?
A stroke happens when the brain’s supply of blood is interrupted or reduced. That means that the brain isn’t getting enough nutrients or oxygen, so brain cells start to die. It’s essentially a brain attack.
How can you recognise the first signs of a stroke?
The earliest signs that someone is going through a stroke are trouble with vision or speech (they might start slurring, or not making sense), or weakness on just one side of the face or body. A great way to remember the signs is to use the FAST test:
Face – has their mouth drooped on one side?
Arms – are they having trouble lifting both arms?
Speech – are they slurring? Can you understand them? Can they understand you?
Time – is of the essence.
Other less common signs include dizziness, a fall, a headache, or difficulty swallowing.
What can you do when you realise someone’s having a stroke?
The ‘T’ from FAST is crucial here, because acting fast when you realise someone is having a stroke is the most crucial thing you can do. The longer a stroke is allowed to go on without being treated, the bigger the chance there is that the patient will suffer permanent brain damage.
Call 000 (NOT your GP or a family member) immediately and get medical help on its way urgently.
In the meantime, try and stay calm and stay with the patient to ensure they’re safe, as people going through a stroke can sometimes inadvertently injure themselves further. Don’t offer the person food or medicine, as it could make the situation worse. Remember the time the stroke took place, as accurately as possible, because the emergency services will ask you.
Is there anything we can do to prevent the likelihood of having a stroke?
Yes! Although genetic factors can play a part in the likelihood of you having a stroke, your lifestyle plays a greater part. Estimations say that 80 per cent of strokes can be prevented by managing risk factors and living healthily. Simple actions, like eating well, staying active, not smoking, not drinking to excess, and managing blood pressure and diabetes, make a real difference.
Remember, for any specific information, you should always talk to a medical health professional who can give you advice based on your personal medical history.