Stroke is Australia’s second biggest killer and a leading cause of disability. This year 60,000 strokes will occur in Australia – that’s a stroke every 10 minutes.
Almost one in five people who experience a stroke are under the age of 55. Strokes kill more women than breast cancer and men are more likely than women to suffer a stroke, and at an earlier age.
There are often specific warning signs of an impending stroke. It is important to recognise the warning signs of stroke and take immediate action – you may be able to prevent a stroke or reduce its severity.
The warning signs or symptoms of stroke occur in a variety of ways. They may occur alone or in combination, lasting a few seconds or up to 24 hours and then disappear, as in the case of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke.
A TIA should not be ignored because it indicates a hidden problem with blood flow, which could trigger a larger more severe stroke later. The severity of the symptoms depends on the area of the brain affected and the cause.
Remember FAST and recognise the signs of stroke
According to the National Stroke Foundation’s 2007 awareness survey, 15 per cent of people over the age of 40 still do not know the signs of stroke. This represents at least 1.3 million Australians aged between 40 and 90 who may not recognise the signs of stroke in themselves or a loved one.
During National Stroke Week the National Stroke Foundation will launch the FAST campaign, which includes distributing 1.3 million free wallet cards. The FAST wallet card allows people to carry the FAST message with them at all times.
FAST is an easy way to recognise the warning signs of stroke and take immediate action. FAST stands for Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, Time to act.
Dr Erin Lalor, CEO of the National Stroke Foundation says that recognising any of the signs of stroke and calling 000 immediately could mean the difference between death or severe disability and a full recovery.
"There is a simple test for stroke that everybody should know – it’s called the FAST test," said Dr Erin Lalor.
The FAST test involves asking three simple questions, the person has a problem with any of these, call 000 immediately:
- Face – Can the person smile, has their mouth or eyes drooped?
- Arms – Can the person raise both arms?
- Speech – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
- Time – Act FAST and call 000 immediately.
The National Stroke Foundation invites all health professionals to order free FAST wallet cards and posters to display in their practice waiting room.
For information and advice on stroke prevention, treatment, recovery and support, visit http://www.strokefoundation.com.au/ or call StrokeLine on 1800 787 653.
(Source: National Stroke Foundation: September 2008.)