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What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when there’s not enough blood being pumped to the brain. The most common cause of a stroke is when there are blood clots blocking blood supply (ischaemic strokes), but a stroke can also occur when there are bleeds in the brain (haemorrhagic strokes).

Our brains depend on a steady flow of blood to ensure there is enough oxygen and nutrients present to control normal functions. When the blood supply is blocked, the brain cells are starved of oxygen and nutrients, and consequently, a stroke can occur.

In Australia, stokes are one of the leading causes of death, and the leading cause of disability, with an average of one person suffering a stroke every ten minutes. A stroke is a medical emergency that can happen to anyone, but is most common in older people.

Stroke Symptoms

Stroke symptoms can vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms you should look out for are:

  • Numbness or weakness to one side of the body
  • Drooping to one side of the face
  • Blurred vision or loss of vision
  • Severe headaches and confusion
  • In severe cases, the person might lose consciousness

Stroke symptoms are usually sudden and can occur during sleep. If this happens, symptoms will usually be experienced when the person wakes up.

Some other symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Spasticity
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Issues with memory
  • Problems with vision
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fatigue
What Causes Strokes?

A thickening, or narrowing, of the arteries that carry blood to the brain causes most strokes.

Our arteries tend to harden, narrow and weaken as we get older, however, there are some groups of people who are at an increased risk. These include people with high blood pressure, people with high cholesterol, people with heart disease or diabetes (or a family history of heart disease or diabetes), people who smoke, people with a high alcohol intake, and people who do not exercise regularly.

Ischaemic strokes

Ischaemic strokes are caused by blockages (usually blood clots) in one of the arteries supplying the brain. Clots can form in these arteries themselves or form in a blood vessel elsewhere in the body and travel to the brain. Clots commonly form where arteries have narrowed due to a build-up of fatty deposits (cholesterol) on their inner walls. The narrowing or furring of the arteries is called atherosclerosis.

Although stroke affects the brain and not the heart, people with an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) are at an increased risk. An irregular heartbeat can cause blood clots, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

Haemorrhagic strokes

Haemorrhagic strokes are caused by one of the blood vessels supplying the brain bursting and causing a bleed. The most common cause is high blood pressure, which damages and weakens the arteries making them more likely to tear.

Some people have haemorrhagic strokes because they have aneurysms (a balloon-like swelling on an artery) which burst. If an aneurysm bursts and causes bleeding over the surface of the brain, it is called a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH).

Serious head injuries can also cause haemorrhagic strokes.


Rehabilitation works to maximise your quality of life after a stroke has occurred, and generally begins immediately. Treatment will commence in the medical ward, and can extend to ongoing rehab sessions at home or in a facility.

Depending on stroke sufferer’s requirements, rehabilitation can improve physical and mental abilities, making a difference to your daily life and the lives of those around you.

It is important that carers and family members are actively involved in your rehabilitation proceedings, as everyday therapy tasks at home can help with recovery.

For information or enquiries about stroke rehabilitation options, contact the professionals at On The Go Rehab.