What you need to know about strokes and factors to reduce your risk

Health & Wellbeing -

Strokes are the third most common cause of death in Australia and a leading cause of disability according to The Brain Foundation. Every 9 minutes an Australian will have a stroke so it’s important to know what factors can help reduce your risk of stroke

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical condition that can affect anyone of any age. Most strokes happen in one of two ways:

  1. When there is a blockage of an artery (a type of blood vessel) in your brain, which restricts blood flow to parts of the brain; or
  2. When there is a rupture or break in the wall of an artery in your brain, which causes bleeding in the brain.

What factors can reduce your risk of a stroke?

Did you know 80% of strokes can be prevented? There are many risk factors that can contribute to strokes, some which you cannot change, but many that you can. By making simple lifestyle changes you can control some of your risk factors.

How high blood pressure can increase your risk of having a stroke 

Having persistently high blood pressure damages the blood vessel walls and can speed up the build-up of fatty deposits onto the artery walls, which can then block the blood flow in arteries – including ones that supply the brain. Consistently high blood pressure can also weaken the walls of arteries, which can lead them to burst. If you have high blood pressure.

How smoking can increase your risk of having a stroke 

Both active smoking and being exposed to second-hand smoke increases your risk of having a stroke. It reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and damages blood vessel walls which can increase the chance of clogging in the arteries of the brain and heart. Quitting smoking can be a challenge, but Quit Now offers support and resources to help. 

How being overweight can increase your risk of having a stroke 

Carrying excess body weight can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. High cholesterol can contribute to the fatty deposits on the walls of an artery, which can restrict the blood flow to the brain, or dislodge and block an artery in the brain. Tackling weight loss can be difficult but you can take some simple steps to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle. 

How a poor diet can increase your risk of having a stroke 

Having a diet that is consistently high in saturated or trans fats and high in sodium (salt) can increase your risk of a stroke. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can also increase your risk of stroke so it’s important to limit your intake to a maximum of 2 standard drinks a day. If you’re looking for healthy tips on the food to keep on your fridge, chef Teresa Cutter can help

What are the signs of a stroke?

It is important to be familiar with the symptoms of a stroke and call an ambulance as soon as possible.

Facial weakness, arm weakness with or without leg weakness, and difficulty with speech are the most common symptoms or signs of stroke, but other signs of stroke can be:

  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or unexplained fall
  • Loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • Headache, usually severe and abrupt in onset or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches
  • Difficulty swallowing

These signs can appear alone or in combination. When symptoms disappear within 24 hours, this may be a mini stroke or Transient Ischaemic Attach (TIA).

If you are rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke, your health care team will perform tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine which treatment is best for you. 

How to protect your family with Life Insurance

In 2018, stroke was recorded as the underlying cause of 8,400 deaths, accounting for 5.3% of all deaths in Australia according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). With stroke being one of Australia’s biggest killers, it’s important to be prepared if the worst were to happen to you or your family. 

How Life Insurance can help if you have a stroke

Life Insurance financially provides for your loved ones in the event of your death, or if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. It can allow your family to keep their home, help support your children, and allow your partner to continue living the life you had planned together.

How Critical Illness (Trauma) Insurance can help if you have a stroke

While Life Insurance will protect your family in the event of a serious stroke, Critical Illness (Trauma) Insurance can give you financial freedom if you require extensive medical treatment and care to recover your health, or make adaptations to you home to adapt to life after a stroke.

What many people don’t realise is that health insurance doesn’t cover the ongoing costs of treatment. A lump sum payment from your Critical Illness (Trauma) Insurance policy gives you the financial security and flexibility during physically challenging times. 

A lot can change after a stroke. You may be faced with some life changes, whether it be in your bodily function, your independence or mobility, your ability to think and communicate, and in your relationships with people. For more information on life after a stroke, take a look at our booklet that offers practical tools and techniques to help you lead a fulfilling life


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