Top 10 Stroke Prevention Tips for Older Australians

Health & Wellness |

Stroke prevention

Did you know that stroke is one of the leading causes of disability and death in Australia?

Shockingly, approximately 56,000 Australians experience a new or recurrent stroke each year. And as we age, the risk of stroke increases, making prevention strategies critical, especially for older Australians.

In this blog, let’s delve into the essentials of stroke prevention, including what strokes are, their prevalence, how to recognise the warning signs, and the top 10 tips for stroke prevention to help safeguard you or your loved one’s health and independence.

Understanding stroke causes

Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, leading to brain cell damage. This disruption can happen due to a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or the rupture of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). The aftermath of a stroke can be life-altering, highlighting the importance of prevention. 

Prevalence in Australia

In Australia, stroke is a significant health concern, particularly among older adults. With someone experiencing a stroke every nine minutes, it’s evident that stroke prevention is paramount. As we age, the risk of stroke escalates, emphasising the need for proactive measures to mitigate this risk as well as a full understanding of the warning signs of the onset of a stroke. 

Recognising the warning signs

Being able to recognise the warning signs of a stroke is crucial for seeking immediate medical attention. Remember the acronym FAST:

  • Face: Is one side of the face drooping? 
  • Arms: Can you lift both arms evenly? 
  • Speech: Is speech slurred or jumbled? 
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call emergency services immediately. 

Recognising the warning signs of a stroke is crucial, but also knowing what to do next is equally important. If you or a loved one experiences any of the symptoms mentioned earlier — such as facial drooping, arm weakness, or slurred speech — it’s essential to act quickly. Time is of the essence when it comes to stroke, as prompt medical intervention can significantly improve outcomes and minimise potential damage to the brain.

Here’s what you should do if you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke: 

  • Call emergency services: Immediately dial emergency services and inform them that you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of a stroke. Provide the operator with as much information as possible about the symptoms and the person’s condition. 
  • Note the time: Pay attention to when the symptoms first started, as this information can help healthcare providers determine the appropriate course of treatment. Remember, “time is brain” when it comes to stroke care.
  • Stay calm and reassure the person: If you’re with someone who is experiencing a stroke, stay calm and reassure them that help is on the way. Encourage them to remain still and avoid unnecessary movement, as this can exacerbate symptoms. 
  • Do not offer food or drink: Refrain from giving the person anything to eat or drink, as they may have difficulty swallowing due to muscle weakness or impaired coordination. 
  • Keep the person comfortable: If possible, help the person lie down on their side with their head supported to maintain an open airway. Loosen any tight clothing and ensure that the surrounding environment is safe and free from hazards. 
  • Do not drive yourself or the person to the hospital: It’s crucial to wait for emergency medical services to arrive and transport the person to the nearest hospital equipped to treat strokes. Ambulance personnel are trained to provide immediate care and can communicate with the hospital to initiate appropriate treatment upon arrival. 

Remember, never ignore the warning signs of a stroke or attempt to “wait and see” if symptoms improve on their own. Time lost is brain lost, and swift action can make a lifesaving difference. If in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical help promptly. Your quick response could help save a life and prevent long-term disability. 

Top 10 stroke prevention tips

Now, let’s delve into the top 10 tips for stroke prevention, which can help you or your loved ones to take charge of your health and wellbeing, and enjoy a healthier lifestyle, 

1. Maintain a healthy diet: A balanced diet plays a pivotal role in stroke prevention. Opt for plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. A diet rich in nutrients can help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and overall cardiovascular health.

2. Stay physically active: Regular exercise is key to reducing the risk of stroke. If your health permits, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling. If appropriate, you can also incorporate strength training exercises two days a week to enhance muscle strength and endurance. Consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions.

3. Manage high blood pressure: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a significant risk factor for stroke. Monitor your blood pressure regularly and work with your GP or usual healthcare provider to keep it within a healthy range. Lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes, regular exercise, stress management, and medication adherence may be necessary to control hypertension effectively.

4. Control cholesterol levels: High levels of cholesterol can contribute to the build-up of plaques in the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke. Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly and take steps to keep them in check. This may include adopting a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking (if applicable), and taking prescribed medications as directed by your healthcare provider.

5. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can strain the cardiovascular system, leading to an increased risk of stroke. Aim to achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a combination of balanced eating and regular physical activity. Your regular healthcare provider can help you determine a healthy weight range and develop a personalised plan to achieve your goals.

6. Quit smoking: Smoking significantly raises the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. Consider seeking support from healthcare professionals, join a smoking cessation program, or explore nicotine replacement therapies to help you quit for good.

7. Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can raise blood pressure and contribute to other risk factors for stroke. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

8. Manage diabetes: Diabetes can increase the risk of stroke, particularly if blood sugar levels are poorly controlled. Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and work with your healthcare team to manage diabetes effectively. This may involve medication, dietary modifications, regular exercise, and lifestyle changes to keep blood sugar levels stable.

9. Reduce stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact cardiovascular health and increase the risk of stroke. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies and activities you enjoy. Prioritise self-care and make time for relaxation to promote overall wellbeing.

10. Stay engaged and socially connected: Maintaining social connections and staying mentally active can support brain health and reduce the risk of stroke. Stay engaged with family, friends, and community activities. Challenge your mind with puzzles, games, reading, or learning new skills to keep your brain sharp and resilient.

In summary

By incorporating these stroke prevention tips into your lifestyle, you can take proactive steps to protect your health and reduce the risk of stroke as you age. Remember, small changes can make a big difference in promoting overall wellbeing and longevity, and the benefits are significant. Take charge of your health today for a healthier and happier tomorrow.

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At Respect, we’re passionate about supporting older Australians to ensure the next phase of their lives are filled with purpose and possibilities. Whether it’s through our network of aged care homes or our home care support and services, we believe in supporting our residents and clients to embrace opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing.

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