PEOPLE living on the Mornington Peninsula are statistically more likely to suffer a stroke than those living anywhere else in Victoria.
The federal electorate of Flinders, held for the Liberal Party by Health Minister Greg Hunt, is the worst of the state’s four stroke “hotspots” identified in the latest Stroke Foundation report.
The latest predictions show nearly 500 residents of the Flinders electorate are expected to have a stroke this year, resulting in 116 deaths.
The number of strokes in Flinders is predicted to grow to 1294 by 2050.
According to the foundation’s No Postcode Untouched: Stroke in Australia 2017 report, strokes are caused by high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).
Flinders is listed as having 75,000 people classed as being physically inactive; 44,000 with high cholesterol; 33,000 with high blood pressure; and 4000 with atrial fibrillation.
Flinders is ninth nationally for having the highest levels of cholesterol and is the highest in Victoria.
Other non-modifiable risk factors for stroke include age, gender and family history of stroke.
The foundation says many people are unaware of their risk.
Other Victorian electorates in the Australia’s top 20 where people are seen as having a high risk of stroke are Chisholm, Goldstein and Maribyrnong.
Stroke Foundation Victorian state manager Scott Stirling said stroke “is no longer a death sentence for many, however patient outcomes vary widely across the country depending on where people live”.
“This report paints an alarming picture, with residents estimated to suffer almost 14,000 strokes this year, many of these strokes will be experienced by people living outside of Melbourne,’’ Mr Stirling said.
“It is a tragedy that only a small percentage of stroke patients nationally are getting access to the latest treatments and ongoing specialist care that we know saves lives,” he said.
Chair of the foundation’s clinical council Associate Professor Bruce Campbell said Australian clinicians were international leaders in advancements in acute stroke treatment, such as endovascular clot retrieval.
“It’s not fair that our health system forces patients into this cruel lottery,” Prof Campbell said.
“Consistent lack of stroke-specific funding and poor resourcing is costing us lives and money. For the most part, doctors and nurses are doing what they can in a system that is fragmented, under-resourced and overwhelmed.”
Mr Stirling said there is one stroke in Australia every nine minutes and unless action was taken this would rise to one stroke every four minutes by 2050.
“Stroke doesn’t discriminate, it impacts people of all ages and while more people are surviving stroke, its impact on survivors and their families is far reaching,” he said.
The stroke foundation wants a national action campaign to ensure every Australian household has someone who can recognise the signs of stroke and to call 000.
FAST check for stroke
THE Stroke Foundation recommends the FAST test as an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke.
Using the FAST test for stroke involves:
- 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.
Other signs of stroke may include one, or a combination of:
- Weakness or numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body;
- Difficulty speaking or understanding;
- Dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall;
- Loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes;
- Headache, usually severe and abrupt onset or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches;
- Difficulty swallowing.
The signs of stroke may occur alone or in combination and they can last a few seconds or up to 24 hours and then disappear. When symptoms disappear within 24 hours, this episode may be a mini stroke or Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA).