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Awareness of stroke symptoms important

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MidCentral District Health Board is encouraging people to learn more about stroke; ahead of Stroke Awareness Week which runs from 4-10 April.

​A stroke can either result from a brain bleed or from a blocked vessel in the brain. Brain bleeds can present with an abrupt onset of a severe headache (like no headache ever experienced before), accompanied by vomiting and neck stiffness.

Strokes are the third most frequent cause of death in New Zealand, accounting for about 2500 deaths a year. It doesn’t just impact older people either, with 10 percent of deaths occurring in those aged under 65. It is also the leading cause of long-term disability. 

One-third of new stroke patients (700 per 1,000,000) die each year, and less than half recover and regain their independence. It is important to identify risk factors and causes of stroke in order to take steps toward prevention. Primary prevention addresses all measures for avoiding a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). Prevention includes blood pressure lowering, cholesterol reduction, smoking cessation, and antiplatelet therapy (to help prevent blood clots).

To help prevent the deaths and ongoing disabilities that result from strokes, the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand has devised a quick check to recognise stroke symptoms.

Using the FAST check, people are encouraged to look at the:
Face – smile, see if one side of the mouth is drooping.
Arms – raise both arms and see if one side is weak.
Speech – try speaking. Is it possible, and are words jumbled or slurred?
Time – act fast, any lost time could mean lost brain function.

The faster people act when a stroke is taking place, the better.
The longer it takes for potentially beneficial treatments to be given at the onset of a stroke the larger the brain damage is likely to be. Immediate contact with emergency services or paramedics (111) should be made in case of any of the FAST symptoms. Remember that ‘time is brain’.

MidCentral Health Lead Stroke Physician and neurologist Dr Ivan Iniesta and clinical nurse specialist in the acute stroke service Imogen Watson, are urging people to learn the symptoms of a stroke, and to take preventative measures.

“Time is very important when someone is suffering a stroke, and if you don’t know the symptoms then it will take longer for them to get medical care. Everyone should be aware of what a stroke looks like. People should also make sure that they keep their blood pressure low, as this is a major cause of strokes”.

“It is a common misconception that strokes are not preventable, and come from nowhere. Leading a healthy lifestyle with exercise, healthy eating, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking can all help prevent strokes from occurring. These are all everyday activities that have benefits for your entire body.” 

The Stroke Foundation also says there are at least 10 ways to reduce your risk of having a stroke.
They include:

1. Check your blood pressure regularly, and follow any treatment advised by your doctor
2. Don’t smoke
3. Reduce your salt intake
4. Eat healthy food (limit fatty, sugary, salty foods)
5. Move more - be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week
6. Maintain a healthier weight
7. Limit your alcohol intake
8. Check your cholesterol level and follow any treatment advised by your doctor
9. Get checked for atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat) and follow any treatment advised by your doctor
10. If you have diabetes, manage your condition well.

Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945

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