Stroke – think F.A.S.T

Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability. One in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime. Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer. Most treatments for stroke are time sensitive so it is important to Think F.A.S.T. and Act FAST!

A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood is carried to the brain by blood vessels called arteries. Blood contains oxygen and important nutrients for your brain cells. Blood may be interrupted through an artery, because the artery is blocked (ischaemic stroke) or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke). When brain cells do not get enough oxygen or nutrients, they die. The area of brain damage is called a cerebral infarct.


Brain cells usually die shortly after the stroke starts. However, some cells can last a few hours, if the blood supply is not cut off completely. If the blood supply can be returned in the minutes and hours after the stroke, some of these cells may recover.


A ‘mini stroke’ (or transient ischaemic attack TIA) happens when there is a temporary interruption to the blood supply to the brain. It causes the same symptoms as a stroke, but these go away completely within 24 hours.

The National Stroke Foundation recommends the F.A.S.T. test as an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke. Using the F.A.S.T. test involves asking these simple questions:

• 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 call 000 straight away.


A stroke is always a medical emergency. The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke related brain damage. Emergency medical treatment soon after symptoms begin improves the chance of survival and successful rehabilitation.


Lifestyle stroke risk factors that you can control to prevent stroke:

• High blood pressure (hypertension).

• High cholesterol - contributes to blood vessel disease, which often leads to stroke.

• Cigarette smoking

• Obesity or being overweight

• Poor diet and lack of exercise

• Drinking too much alcohol

You can get more information on lifestyle stroke risk factors that you can control, from pharmacies with Self Care health information.

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