A stroke is a brain attack.  It’s damage to part of the brain usually from a blood clot blocking an artery, but can also from bleeding (cerebral haemorrhage).

GPs are increasingly assessing a person’s risk of stroke in the next five or ten years based on factors such as age, smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol, past history of a heart attack or minor stroke and diabetes.

If the five or ten year risk is high (say more than 10 or 15 per cent) then the doctor will usually recommend treatment and risk factor reduction.

But that’s just about people at risk over the next few years. What about your total lifetime chances of having a stroke?

That’s what researchers have just calculated globally and the results were shocking.

On average one in four people will have a stroke sometime in their lives. If you live in Eastern Europe it can be as high as one in three people.  In Australia it’s one in five people – still a high number.

Does this mean we all need to be on medications for life?

No, say the researchers unless you’re at very high risk but it does mean from early on in life making sure your blood pressure is normal, you don’t smoke, you exercise, don’t consume more than the recommended level of alcohol, keep salt intake low, control your weight and try to prevent diabetes.

It’s a bit of a lottery but the dice are loaded against people who have poor lifestyles.

Last Reviewed: 14/02/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.

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