BEATING THE CLOCK: Stroke Clinical Nurse Consultant at Ipswich Hospital Linda Edwards.
BEATING THE CLOCK: Stroke Clinical Nurse Consultant at Ipswich Hospital Linda Edwards. Cordell Richardson

Every second counts in detecting one of our biggest killers

WHEN someone suffers a stroke, every single second counts.

Data from Queensland Health shows it is one of the leading causes of death for women in Australia and takes out more women than men.

Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and in 2016 it was the underlying cause in 5.2% of all deaths across the country.

Specialist stroke nurse Linda Edwards works with doctors in the emergency department of the Ipswich Hospital to assess patients so they can receive the correct treatment as quickly as possible.

"Time is of the essence," she said.

"The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke-related brain damage."

The Ipswich Hospital sees between 150 and 180 stroke patients a year.

Ms Edwards said advancements in treating stroke patients had come a long way in the past 30 years and if treatment is given in time, many people are able to recover.

The best way to beat the clock is with the FAST assessment, a test that can be used by anyone to quickly notice the signs.

"These days we have an opportunity to potentially save someone from disability if they can get to hospital in time, have a FAST assessment and then treatment," she said.

In the Chief Health Officer's The Health of Queenslanders 2018 report, adult health risk factors in the West Moreton Health catchment area were reported higher than the Queensland average, highlighting 35 per cent of adults as obese, 12 per cent as being inactive and 15 per cent as smoking daily.

"Obesity is a big risk factor because it leads to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and these are all risk factors that can be prevented," Ms Edwards said.

"Smoking is also a huge risk factor for stroke along with the use of illicit drugs.

"A change in lifestyle, regardless of your age or gender, reduces the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

"The important thing to understand is that prevention is far better than a cure and you can reduce the risk of having a stroke or a cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, just by reducing the risk factors. The risk factors are the same for both heart attack and stroke.

"Time is crucial when having a stroke and fast treatment makes the biggest long-term difference."

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain either becomes blocked or ruptures and starts to bleed.

It can result in part of the brain dying, leading to sudden impairment that can affect a number of functions.

It often causes paralysis of parts of the body or speech problems.

FAST assessment

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.

It can impact anyone

ANYONE with a brain can suffer a stroke, no matter how old they are and there are not always warning signs.

"It used to be thought of as a condition of older people but this is not the case," specialist stroke nurse Linda Edwards said.

"We have had patients as young as 16-years-old in our Stroke Unit."

The Ipswich Hospital unit is currently treating a 52-year-old lady who thought she was having a stroke and sought medical help, but her symptoms were not recognised until her third medical visit.

"She was admitted to hospital and was then transferred here to Ipswich Hospital for rehabilitation where she has been for four weeks," Ms Edwards said.

"This lady has had some recovery because she is determined to participate in many daily therapy sessions - she can now walk with assistance and is learning to do things differently because her left arm has been affected.

"This case is an example of how timely detection and then treatment matters."

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