Know the signs and risk factors of stroke

WITH one Australian suffering a stroke every 10 minutes, it’s important to know your risk factors.

Bendigo Health is putting the facts and figures on the table as part of National Stroke Week, being held this week.

Victorian Stroke Telemedicine Project co-ordinator Sharan Ermel, who works from Bendigo Health, said high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes could lead to a stroke.

“So the message is about knowing your risk factors and putting controls in your life,” she said.

“It’s about managing blood pressure, managing cholesterol and preventing diabetes.”

Ms Ermel said it was important people could identify the signs of stroke, which could include numbness, difficulty speaking, dizziness, headache and difficulty swallowing.

“If you notice someone’s face is dropping, can you get them to smile, an even smile?” she said.

“We talk about arm weakness  –  can someone raise both arms and have they got full control of their arms?

“Are they clear with their speech? Can they be understood? Can they find the right words?”

Ms Ermel said a person suffering a stroke or suspected stroke required urgent medical attention.

“One in six people will have a stroke,” she said. “More women will die of stroke than breast cancer and more men will die of stroke than those who will die of prostate cancer.

“Stroke has similar risk factors to heart disease but stroke isn’t seen by the community as being such an emergency.

“And that’s what the National Stroke Foundation is really trying to emphasise this year with the 

‘1 in 6’ campaign. With a heart attack people have that classic symptom of pain and pain tends to get more attention, whereas with stroke someone can have weakness in their arm and say ‘oh, that will get better’.

“It doesn’t have the same urgency, so that’s why NSF are really pushing the ‘killer’ aspect.”

Ms Ermel said the Victorian Stroke Telemedicine Project was complementing services already offered in Bendigo.

“It’s a pilot program where we’ve got real-time video conferencing with neurologists from Melbourne,” she said.

“So when we have a stroke patient turn up in the emergency department, we can call a 1300 number and get in touch with an on-call neurologist who can look at the patient’s scans and actually view that person in real-time.”

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