During National Stroke Week (8 – 14 August) the University of Newcastle and HMRI are on a mission to raise awareness about risk factors and rehabilitation research.
Did you know that one in four people globally will have a stroke in their lifetime? In Australia, that equates to roughly one person every 19 minutes having their first stroke.
World-leading stroke researcher with HMRI and the University of Newcastle, Professor Coralie English, is a newly appointed Director of The Stroke Foundation.
She says there are five things everyone needs to know about stroke, from prevention and identification, to rehabilitation and living well after stroke.
- 80 per cent of strokes can be prevented
High blood pressure is the key risk factor for stroke but many people don’t know they have it because there are no symptoms, it’s asymptomatic. The only way you can know if you have high blood pressure is to ask your GP or pharmacist to check it for you. There are other risk factors as well. These include smoking, drinking alcohol, family history, activity levels and body mass index. To assess your stroke risk, click here: what-is-your-stroke-risk-tick-test.pdf (strokefoundation.org.au)
- Early detection and treatment can prevent brain damage
Stroke is a medical emergency. Getting to hospital and getting the right treatment as soon as possible can prevent lasting brain damage. This is why early detection is so important. An easy diagnostic test is the FAST test. F.A.S.T. is an acronym to help people recognise the signs of a stroke. It stands for Face drooping? Arm weakness? Speech difficulty? Time to call an ambulance.
- Reduce your risk of having another stroke by quitting alcohol
According to The Stroke Foundation, drinking alcohol can increase your risk of having another stroke. Alcohol may also impact your recovery, worsen symptoms such as fatigue, and react with some medications.
While there is some research to suggest that alcohol may offset some of the risks for cardiovascular disease, it is becoming increasingly clear that alcohol definitely increases your risk of secondary stroke. The risks still outweigh the benefits.
- Exercise is a major factor in stroke rehabilitation and recovery
To offset the effects of a stroke – especially the loss of muscle strength, coordination, sensation and balance – exercise programs where people perform repetitive ‘rehab’ exercises have been shown to speed up recovery. Getting enough regular exercise that gets your heart rate up will keep you healthy after stroke and help reduce your risk of having another one.
- A Mediterranean-style diet is proven to reduce risk of stroke
If you need another reason to increase your intake of fruit, vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, unrefined cereals and seafood, the science is in: the Mediterranean diet will also reduce your risk factors for secondary stroke.
Professor English and her team are preparing to launch a new online program called i-REBOUND that is designed to support people on their path to living well after stroke. Designed by people with stroke, for people with stroke and featuring clinically proven exercise and nutrition programs, the new website will launch on 18 August and aims to improve access to expert support for everyone but especially people living in regional and rural areas. This is relevant as people living regionally in Australia are 17 per cent more likely to experience a stroke and generally have less access to allied health services.