Cardiovascular Disease

Stroke, are you at risk?

Did you know that Stroke is Australia’s second biggest killer after coronary heart disease and a leading cause of disability?

What is a Stroke?

A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood is carried to the brain by blood vessels called arteries. Blood contains oxygen and important nutrients for your brain cells. Blood may be interrupted or stop moving through an artery, because the artery is blocked (ischaemic stroke) or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke). When brain cells do not get enough oxygen or nutrients, they die. The area of brain damage is called a cerebral infarct.

Brain cells usually die shortly after the stroke starts. However, some can last a few hours, if the blood supply is not cut off completely. If the blood supply can be returned in the minutes and hours after the stroke, some of these cells may recover. If not, they will also die.

Stroke risk factors

Stroke risk factors: Risk of stroke and second stroke is influenced by a number of factors. The more stroke risk factors you have, the higher your chances of having a stroke.

They fall into three groups:

Stroke risk factors that you cannot control
  • Age – as you get older, your risk of stroke increases
  • Gender – stroke is more common in men
  • A family history of stroke
Medical stroke risk factors
  • Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)
  • Irregular Pulse (Atrial Fibrillation)
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD)
Lifestyle stroke risk factors that you can control
High blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is the most important known risk factor for stroke. High blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessel walls, which may eventually lead to a stroke.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia /dyslipidemia) – contributes to blood vessel disease, which often leads to stroke.

Cigarette smoking

Smoking can increase your risk of stroke or further stroke by increasing blood pressure and reducing oxygen in the blood. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 toxic chemicals which are deposited on the lungs or absorbed into the bloodstream. Some of these chemicals damage blood vessel walls, leading to atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries). This increases the chance of blood clots forming in the arteries to the brain and heart. Smoking also increases the stickiness of the blood. This further increases the risk of blood clots forming. Seek advice on how you can quit smoking as soon as possible by calling the QUIT line on 13 78 48 or come in and speak to your Pharmacist.

Weight issues, poor diet & lack of exercise

Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of stroke. Too much body fat can contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and can lead to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Being inactive, overweight or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

A balanced diet eating fresh foods where possible is recommended. It is also important to maintain a balance between exercise and food intake; this helps to maintain a healthy body weight.

People who take part in moderate activity are less likely to have a stroke. Try and build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Your Community Pharmacy can help set you on your Weight loss path.

Drinking too much alcohol

Drinking large amounts of alcohol (six or more standard drinks per day) increases your risk of stroke.

Signs of Stroke
How do you know if someone is having a stroke? Think… F.A.S.T.

The F.A.S.T. test is an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke.
Using the F.A.S.T. test involves asking these simple questions:


Face Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arm Can they lift both arms?
Speech Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.
A stroke is always a medical emergency.
Recognise the signs of stroke call 000.
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