Stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases account for 1 in 18 deaths in males and 1 in 12 deaths in females, making it one of the most significant diseases in Australia*.
In 2013 there were 51,000 strokes causing about a $5 billion loss to the economy, $3 billion in lost productivity and $1 billion in lost wages**. Almost 440,000 Australians now live with the effects of stroke and this number is predicted to rise rapidly***.
What is it and what causes it?
Stroke occurs as a result of an interruption of blood supply to the brain, due to a blocked or burst artery. The lack of oxygen to the brain causes brain cells to die, which can affect the function of various parts of the body.
High blood pressure is the most important known risk factor for stroke and this can be addressed by improving diet, regular exercise and keeping weight under control.
Be aware of the signs
The signs that someone is having a stroke are neatly summed up in the acronym; F.A.S.T.
- Facial drooping – usually on one side.
- Arm weakness – an inability to raise the arms fully
- Speech difficulties – slurring
- Time – if stroke is suspected call emergency services or go to the hospital immediately.
Some additional symptoms can also occur in women, including loss of consciousness, weakness, shortness of breath, disorientation, nausea and even hiccups. These symptoms are often not recognised as being caused by stroke, which may delay treatment and increase the damage done.
Stroke week raises awareness
National Stroke Week runs from 12 – 18 September to raise awareness and encourage preventative action. The theme “Speed Saves” underlines the importance of swift action. For more information, visit the Stroke Foundation’s site at www.strokefoundation.com.au.
* Australian Bureau of Statistics: Causes of Death, Australia, 2014
** Deloitte Access Economics 2013, The economic impact of stroke in Australia.
*** Deloitte Access Economics 2014, Impact of stroke across Australia.