If you or a loved one had a stroke 30 years ago, the chances of returning to the life you knew were slim.
But that is not the case anymore.
With the right treatment at the right time, it is possible to make a good recovery.
With a new year underway, it’s a fitting opportunity to look back on how far we have come in stroke treatment and care and think about what we can do to reduce our own personal stroke risk in the future.
Stroke strikes the brain, the human control centre.
There will be more than 56,000 strokes in Australia in 2020 – that is one every nine minutes.
Sadly, the numbers continue to climb as our population grows and ages and lifestyles become more sedentary.
But in good news, stroke is no longer a death sentence for many.
Medical diagnosis and treatment have become much more advanced in the past two decades.
There has been a significant reduction in lives lost as a result.
The game changers were the introduction of the time-critical therapies thrombolysis (blood clot dissolving treatment) and endovascular thrombectomy (blood clot removal treatment).
Australian researchers were at the forefront of these treatments.
In addition, the number of patients being treated in a dedicated stroke unit has increased.
So too has access to rehabilitation and carer training.
There has been increased recognition that stroke’s impact extends beyond the physical to mental health.
Together these steps help maximise quality of life and independence after stroke.
While much has been achieved, there is still a lot more to be done in 2020 and beyond.
Our regional health services and patients are being left behind as our city hospitals innovate.
We know our regional patients have limited access to well established standard treatments.
It doesn’t need to be this way. There is huge potential for telehealth to remove geographical barriers to stroke treatments and boost the capacity of our regional health services and clinicians.
Researchers are constantly looking for the next major breakthrough.
We must ensure all Australians have equitable access to these innovations to maximise their benefit.
Finally, every single Australian can make a difference to reducing the burden of stroke on our community.
Stroke is largely preventable.
While we cannot avoid ageing and genetic factors, there are many steps we can take to reduce our own stroke risk.
In 2020, I urge you to make time for a health check with your doctor to determine your risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat).
These issues can be controlled, reducing stroke risk.
Make healthy changes part of your daily life: stay active, eat a well balanced-diet, avoid too much salt and sugar, quit smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation.
Let’s aim for a healthier Australia, one free from disability and suffering caused by stroke.
Professor Bruce Campbell, Stroke Foundation Clinical Council Chair.