Q: Can I prevent stroke? How is it treated?
Any sudden event that causes an insult to the brain is a stroke and can manifest in different ways.
During an 'insult' to the brain, injury can occur due to a lack of blood flow, which means oxygen and nutrients aren't getting to certain areas of the brain.
This is called an ischemic stroke and is the most common type we see.
When there is actual bleeding into the brain, it's a haemorrhagic stroke, which we see in about 15 per cent of stroke patients.
Whichever kind of stroke someone has, they are left with quite significant disability afterwards, so ideally we would like to prevent strokes before they happen.
There is a bit of crossover in terms of the risk factors for the two types of strokes, and they are both similar in terms of things that you can do to prevent them.
The most common risk factors that we normally identify are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heart rhythms, smoking, diabetes, and family history of stroke.
The good news is, you can change your risk factors of stroke yourself through lifestyle modifications, like exercise, maintaining a good blood pressure, quitting (or not taking up) smoking and eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and salt.
The good news is, you can change your risk factors of stroke yourself.
It is also worthwhile to get regular checks to ensure that you don't have high sugar in your blood. Similarly, your cholesterol is something that should be monitored regularly.
Unfortunately, once a stroke has started, there are limited treatments to mitigate the full effects of the damage. However, we have had a revolution in stroke treatment within the last three or four years.
For patients experiencing ischemic strokes due to a clot blocking a main artery in the brain, blood flow can now be restored in 80 to 90 per cent of cases by retrieving the clots to prevent a massive stroke.
Suspect a stroke? Act F.A.S.T.
The origin of the word stroke comes from the fact that it's like a strike or as if you've been hit with something - it's sudden and without warning.
There's no prediction of when it might happen and then, depending on which part of the brain is affected, you can get different symptoms.
The Stroke Foundation has recommended the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people remember the symptoms and necessary response.
F is face: asymmetry or any irregularities that you see that happen in the face.
A is arm: the inability to lift one arm or the other.
S is speech: slurred or affected speech.
T is time: the main thing people need to know, is that if they go to the emergency department quickly enough, the chances of recovery are much higher.
Other things to can look out for, besides the FAST acronym, are changes in vision (particularly blindness in one eye), sudden collapses or becoming comatose.
If you're worried about a stroke, then you should call an ambulance and get to the nearest emergency department.
- Today's answer is provided by Sydney neurosurgeon Dr Johnny Wong, through HealthShare, a digital company dedicated to improving the health of regional Australians. Submit questions, and find more answers, at healthshare.com.au.