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How to help someone who's having a stroke

Blog post | 30 Aug 2019

Someone has a stroke every 9 minutes in Australia. It's one of our biggest killers and causes of disability.

But the sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the better the outcome. Being able to spot the signs and symptoms of stroke is crucial — by acting fast, you could help a person survive and go on to live a long, happy life.

If you suspect that you or another person is having a stroke, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.

What is stroke?

Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted.

The brain, like all organs, needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death.

In people who survive, a stroke can cause weakness or paralysis in one side of the body. Many people also experience problems with coordination and balance, memory, mood and cognitive ability, continence, swallowing and speech. They can also suffer from severe fatigue in the first few weeks after a stroke.

Think F.A.S.T. when it comes to stroke

The best way to remember the symptoms of stroke is to remember the word 'FAST'. If a person is showing these signs, seek help immediately:

  • Face — Check the person's face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arms — Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech — Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time is critical — If you see any of these signs or suspect that you or someone else may be having a stroke, call triple zero (000) straight away and ask for an ambulance.

In the hospital emergency department, the person will be examined using specialised medical equipment. You can read more about the diagnosis and treatment of stroke here.

It's National Stroke Week

September 2-8 is National Stroke Week 2019. The theme this year is 'F.A.S.T. heroes', recognising people who spotted the signs of stroke and called an ambulance straight away, potentially saving a life.

Stroke Week is also the perfect opportunity to learn more about stroke, which kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer. You can also spread awareness and raise funds to help prevent and treat stroke — and support stroke survivors.

Watch this video about a patient’s experience after recovering from a stroke. Visit the Stroke Foundation website for more personal stories.

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