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 better the outcome.
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered by using the word 'FAST':
- Face – Check their 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.
Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, a poor diet and regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol are 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.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested or treated for anything that might increase your risk of having a stroke. For more information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
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).
Last reviewed: July 2017