Stroke NZ: What Are The 5 Warning Signs Of A Stroke?

Cheerful senior woman and man sitting having coffee at home having recovered from a stroke.

You have probably come across the term stroke before, but what is the main cause of stroke, and what are the 5 warning signs of a stroke?

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical event that impacts over 9,000 Kiwis every year, or around 25 every day, but what exactly is it and what are the top warning signs?

Strokes put simply are a brain attack, where the blood flow going to the brain is blocked. This blockage causes the brain to stop working and damages brain cells. This damage to the brain cells can affect a persons ability to walk, speak, and their vision. However, it is important to note that many of those who suffer a stroke go on to recover and live healthy and happy lives.

What is the main cause of stroke?

The main cause of stroke is high blood pressure, which can weaken the arteries in the brain and make them more likely to split or rupture. Things that increase the risk of high blood pressure include being overweight.

75% of strokes occur in people over 65 years of age with the remaining 25% of strokes occurring in the under 65’s.

What are the 3 types of stroke?

Ischaemic stroke: occurs when a blood clot completely blocks an artery in or to the brain. They are the most common type of stroke, occurring in about 85% of cases. 

Haemorrhagic stroke: occurs when an artery within the brain ruptures (bursts) and leaks blood into the brain.

Transient ischaemic attack (‘mini-stroke’): occurs when there is a temporary disruption in the blood flow to the brain. Symptoms may last for only a few minutes or up to a few hours.

What are the five warning signs of a stroke?

If you notice the following sudden and severe signs of stroke immediately dial 111

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes
  • Sudden difficulty walking or dizziness loss of balance or problems with coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

F.A.S.T. An easy way to remember the warning signs

F ace drooping: Look out if one side of the persons face begins to droop, such as their lips.

A rm weakness: Ask the person to life both arms in line with their chest, if one arm can’t rise like the other, this suggests weakness.

S peech impairment: Pay close attention to the person speech, are they mumbling? Can you understand what they are trying to say?

T ake action, dial 111: This is the most important step. Get the person immediate medical attention because this could be the difference between life and death. If a stroke is recognised at an early stage and hospital care is readily available, drug treatment is able to dissolve a potential brain clot, resulting in a full recovery.

How do I reduce stroke risk?

The good news is that 75% of strokes are preventable and there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of a stroke or reduce the impact that a stroke has on your health.

Controlling your blood pressure and salt intake will have the greatest impact on minimising your risk of suffering a stroke.

However, being able to identify a stroke is crucial, as the quicker you get medical attention, the greater the chance of reduced long-term implications.

Early treatment with medication like tPA (clot buster) can minimise brain damage. Other treatments focus on limiting complications and preventing additional strokes.

If you have question around stroke and medicines, give one of our ZOOM Pharmacists a call, as they will be able to provide further information around the medicines involved with strokes.

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