In the next six seconds, someone in the world will have a stroke. Are you among those at highest risk?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or is blocked by a clot. A stroke caused by a blockage is called an ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke is the result of a ruptured vessel that bleeds into or around the brain. The blockage or bleeding deprives brain cells of adequate oxygen-carrying blood and the cells start to die, which can lead to ongoing mental and physical impairment (difficulty thinking, speaking and moving) or even death.

Each year about 15 million people worldwide suffer a new or recurrent stroke, and of these individuals, nearly 6 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled. Across the globe, stroke is the second leading cause of death for people over age 60. Fortunately, 80 percent of all strokes are preventable.

If a person shows signs of a stroke, it is crucial to seek medical help immediately. Never wait to see if symptoms lessen. Signs of a stroke include the following:

  • Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, often on one side of the body.
  • Sudden trouble speaking or understanding; confusion.
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Older adults experience more strokes, often because they face more cardiovascular disease and are more sedentary. To reduce the risk of a stroke, particularly in ageing loved ones, follow these recommendations:

  • Eat a healthier diet.
  • Manage blood pressure.
  • Maintain physical activity.
  • Lose extra weight.
  • Lower cholesterol levels.
  • Reduce blood sugar.
  • Avoid smoking.

To learn more about stroke prevention and resources to help a stroke survivor, contact the National Stroke Foundation Australia, a medical facility or a Right at Home office nearest you.

How have you been successful in encouraging ageing loved ones to make stroke-prevention lifestyle changes?

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