Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death.
A stroke is a medical emergency and prompt treatment is essential. The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage of brain cells is likely to happen.
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:
- Face – the face may have dropped on one side.
- Arms – the person may not be able to lift one or both arms.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled.
- Time – if you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise and a poor diet are also risk factors for stroke. Conditions that affect the circulation of the blood, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) and diabetes, also increase your risk of having a stroke.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that if you are concerned about cardiovascular disease but have no symptoms, talk to your doctor or specialist whether the benefits will outweigh the risks involved with specific testing for heart disease or stroke. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
The Royal College of Pathologists of Australia recommends that if you are over 75 years of age you need to talk to your doctor or specialist about the risks and benefits of testing and treating your cholesterol. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
Support for carers
Are you caring for someone who has had a stroke? Find practical information and useful resources for carers on Carer Gateway. You can also learn more about carers' support and services in your state or territory through Carers Australia.
Personal story: stroke
Recovering from a stroke can be both emotionally and practically challenging. Listening to others who have experienced similar situations is often re-assuring and can be helpful for you, your loved ones or when preparing questions for your doctor or a specialist.
Watch this video about a patient’s experience after recovering from a stroke.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about stroke, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Sources: NHS Choices, UK (Stroke), healthtalkonline.org (Stroke, age 46-55, interview 19), Brain Foundation (Stroke), Stroke Foundation (Types of strokes), Choosing Wisely Australia (Choosing Wisely recommendations)
Video Copyright: ©2013 University of Oxford. Used under licence from DIPEx. All rights reserved.
Last reviewed: July 2015