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New Zealanders Cannot Recognise Stroke Symptoms

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
New Zealanders Cannot Recognise Stroke Symptoms

New Zealanders' inability to recognise the symptoms of a stroke is costing lives and lifestyles, says the Stroke Foundation.

Chief Executive Mark Vivian says recent research for the Stroke Foundation by Colmar Brunton showed that only 27 percent of New Zealanders could recognise even one symptom of a stroke, and over a third couldn't identify any symptoms.

Stroke symptoms include a face that has drooped, one arm being weaker than the other and slurred or jumbled speech.

Mr Vivian says this inability to recognise the signs of a stroke contributes to needless deaths each year and poorer outcomes for stroke patients because they don't get to hospital quickly enough.

"A treatment called tPA helps break down a blood clot in the case of an ischaemic stroke, and can greatly reduce the damage caused. This in turn impacts on how quickly and how much a person recovers.

"However, the treatment can only be given to people who are admitted to hospital and assessed within four and a half hours of the onset of their stroke."

He says a recently completed audit of District Health Board stroke services by the Stroke Foundation confirmed that 80 percent of New Zealanders live within DHB areas that provide tPA.

"But the audit showed that only 3 percent of people admitted to hospital because of a stroke received the treatment. So, while the majority of DHBs are providing this vital treatment, people are missing out because they are not getting to hospital quickly enough to receive it."

Dr Gerry McGonigal, stroke physician at Wellington Hospital, sees the results of delays in seeking medical attention for stroke symptoms every day. He says a national awareness campaign to educate the New Zealand public about stroke symptoms is well overdue.

"The public must be able to recognise the symptoms of stroke and know to call 111 immediately. At the moment, there is just not enough public awareness. "Awareness campaigns have run or are running in much of the developed world - including Australia, Europe, the UK and in some US states. New Zealand is lagging behind."

Dr McGonigal says he has seen amazing results when people with stroke symptoms have dialled 111 straight away.

"I've seen patients admitted to hospital within one and a half hours of their stroke, having very severe strokes, who have walked out of hospital within three days."

He says even if your symptoms go away, you still need to call 111.

"Things might return to normal, but if you've had stroke symptoms, you still need to treat it as a medical emergency."

Mark Vivian supports Dr McGonigal's calls for an awareness campaign.

"The FAST acronym can help people recognise stroke systems, and remind them to call 111. But the message is not being promoted widely enough.

"The funding required to run a national awareness campaign would be returned many times in reduced health costs down the track."

The FAST acronym stands for:

Face - has it drooped?

Arm - is one arm weaker?

Speech - is it slurred, jumbled?

Time - time to act fast.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 111 immediately.

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