This month we are focussing on stroke, a largely preventable, yet extremely serious condition. We have included information to help you understand stroke, prevention tips, and how to recognise the signs of stroke. The FAST campaign encourages New Zealanders to learn the key signs of stroke and to act fast by calling 111 if they suspect a stroke. Prompt action can save lives.

Focus on long term condition: stroke
Every day in New Zealand about 24 people will suffer from a stroke – a condition that is largely preventable by knowing the underlying causes and reducing the chance of a stroke occurring. If a stroke occurs it is important to get treatment quickly.

What is stroke?
Stroke occurs when there is a problem with blood flow in the brain causing the brain cells to die and not work properly.  It can affect people of all ages but people over the age of 65 are three times more likely to have a stroke compared to younger people.

Types of stroke
There are two main types of stroke. An ischaemic stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or where blood flow is significantly reduced.  A haemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain burst and bleeds into the brain.

Recognising the signs of stroke
Recognising the signs of a stroke and getting treatment quickly will improve the chance of survival and recovery.  The signs are:

  • Sudden weakness and/or numbness of face, arm and/or eg especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying
  • Sudden loss of balance or an unexplained fall or difficulty controlling movements, especially with any of the other signs

Preventing strokes
Strokes are largely preventable so help yourself by:

  • Having your blood pressure and cholesterol checked and follow any treatment advised by your doctor. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke.
  • Quit smoking. People who smoke are four times more likely to suffer a stroke!
  • Maintain a healthy diet and healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes activity on most days of the week.
  • Get checked for atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat) and follow any treatment advised by your doctor.

Talk to a pharmacist about getting the best results from any medications you are taking, quit smoking programmes, and how you can reduce your risk of a stroke.

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