It is estimated that up to 40,000 strokes occur in Australia each year, and at any given moment there may be 180,000 people suffering the affects of stroke. Jennifer Paterson examines a life changing occurance.
What is a Stroke?
Stroke is now generally referred to as 'brain attack'. The most common form of stroke is caused by a sudden disruption of blood to various parts of the brain. This disruption cuts off blood supply to those areas causing brain cells to die (infarct). In more serious cases blood vessels will burst, spreading blood into the brain (a haemorrhage). As a result of this damage to the brain, unconsciousness and partial paralysis may occur, often the outward signs of 'stroke'.
Types of Stroke
There are two types of 'stroke', or brain attack - ischaemic and haemorrhagic.
Ischaemic Stroke- occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Normally blood clotting is beneficial, such as when you are bleeding from a wound, the blood clotting stems the blood flow. However in the case of stroke these blood clots can cut off oxygen supply to the brain. Approximately 85% of strokes are ischaemic.
Haemorrhagic Stroke- occurs when a blood vessels in the brain break, or 'erupt'. Haemorrahagic stoke occurs in about 10% of stroke suffers. The outcome of this type of stroke is generally severe.
What are my Chances of Suffering a Stroke?
Several factors increase your likelihood of suffering 'brain attack'.
Age - two thirds of stroke suffers are over 65.
Gender - women have a greater chance of stroke than men due to a longer lifespan.
Family History - a history of cerebrovascular disease (stroke) in your family may predispose you to brain attack.
Diabetes - either insulin dependant (type 1) or non-insulin depandant (type 2) can damage the entire circulatory system.
Atrial fibrilation (AF) - or irregular pulse, can increase your risk of stroke at least five times that of a person with a normal pulse.
While factors such as age and gender are impossible to control, there are a number of variables you can control as an individual to decrease your likelihood of brain attack.
High Blood Pressure
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. High blood pressure can be controlled by reducing sodium in your diet; keeping your weight within a healthy range; and minimising stress.
High cholesterol level can be a contributory factor to aterial disease - which can predispose an individual to stroke. Avoiding foods with excess fat, particularly those rich in cholesterol, will reduce the likelihood of stroke.
Avoiding foods with high sodium levels can also reduce the likelihood of stoke. It is particularly important to check the sodium content on canned or processed foods. Sodium can be found in the form of disodium phosphate, monosdium glutomate, sodium nitrate and any other sodium compound.
For heavy drinkers the rsik of stroke increases threefold. Try to limit your alcohol consumption to the recommended daily levels for men and women.
Obesity can lead to heart disease and non-insulin dependant (type 2) diabetes. Both of these increase your risk of stroke.
Smoking can increase your likelihood of stroke by as much as six times. Women on the pill, in particular, should avoid smoking as a correlation has been established between the two and an increased incidence of stroke.
Active people tend to have lower body fat and cholesterol levels, decreasing the likelihood of aterial disease and, in turn - stroke.
Birth Control Pills
The use of some oral contraceptives may increase the likelihood of blood clots, particularly for women over the age of 30.
National Stoke WeekNational Stroke Week runs from September 25th-October 1st this year. It is sponsored by The Brain Foundation. The Foundation allocates funds to research and medical education for the treatment and prevention of neurological disorders. Each year over 5 million Australians and their families suffer the effects of injuries of the brain and spinal cord, strokes, tumors, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and migraines. They can be contacted on 02 94375967. For more information on stroke (brain attack) consult the National Stroke Foundation web site.
Date written: September 20, 2000
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