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Articles Health Signs of a stroke
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Signs of a stroke

In Australia, strokes are the third most common cause of death and the leading cause of disability. Research has shown there will be more than 56,000 strokes experienced in Australia every year.

What is a stroke and how does it happen?

“A stroke is the way we describe the blood supply to the brain being suddenly cut off,” says Professor Bruce Campbell from the Stroke Foundation.

A stroke can happen in two different ways:

  1. Blood clot (ischemic stroke): when an artery supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked.
  2. Bleeding within the brain (hemorrhagic stroke): when an artery suddenly bursts.

Professor Campbell says, “Brain cells can quickly die without the oxygen that the blood supplies.”

This is why it’s very important to get to hospital immediately if you think you’re having a stroke.

What are the signs of a stroke and what does it look like?

Recognising the signs of a stroke is easy with the F.A.S.T. checklist.

Use the F.A.S.T. checklist to ask these simple questions:

  • Face – has the person’s face drooped?
  • Arms – can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech – is their speech slurred?
  • Time – call 000 immediately


Other symptoms or signs of a stroke may include:

  • Dizziness
  • A severe, sudden headache with an unknown cause
  • Confusion
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Trouble walking


It’s important to remember acting F.A.S.T is crucial to saving lives; a stroke is always a medical emergency.

“When a stroke happens, up to 1.9 million brain cells die every minute. Treatment of a stroke is time critical. The earlier the treatment is delivered, the better the outcome for stroke patients,” says Professor Campbell.

The brain controls the way we think, move, speak and eat. Unfortunately, a stroke can leave people with a wide range of physical and cognitive changes and disabilities.

Professor Campbell says, “Some of the effects can include paralysis, speech and swallowing difficulties, problems with memory, hearing and eyesight – it all depends on where in the brain the stroke occurs and how severe it is.”

What are lifestyle changes we can make to reduce the risk of suffering a stroke?

Research shows that more than 80% of strokes are preventable.

You can reduce your risk of suffering  a stroke by doing the following:

  • Eat well
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Keep blood pressure within a normal range
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep alcohol consumption down to a minimum


Certain medical conditions can also be linked to an increased stroke risk. These include:

  • A previous stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disorder, such as coronary artery disease
  • Heart valve defects
  • Enlarged heart chambers and irregular heartbeats
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Diabetes


“Ask your doctor for a Heart Health Check and find out more about your stroke and heart disease risk,” says Professor Campbell.

It’s also important to remember that stroke risk factors do increase with age, but they can happen to anyone at any age, a stroke doesn’t discriminate.

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