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Men's Shed podcast promotes stroke prevention strategies

The latest special episode of the Australian Men’s Shed Association's The Shed Wireless podcast takes a close look at strokes from the perspective of three men who survived them. 

Singer John Paul Young, host of the podcast, talks to Don and Noel from the Newcastle Men’s Shed, survivors of strokes that were recognised before too much damage was done. It's an important message for National Stroke Week, from 7-13 August 2023. 

As the Stroke Foundation emphasises in their Bloke Beside You campaign, strokes are one of Australia’s biggest killers, however, 80% of strokes can be prevented if people act quickly when they recognise the warning signs. 

Don was just home from work and out of the shower when his wife noticed that his jaw had dropped. His first stroke was 19 years ago, and his second came five later. “A stent in my neck had blocked up,” says Don, a former laborer with the Department of Health. “It didn’t leave me with any disabilities.” 

Noel was in a private hospital recovering from a knee replacement when the medical staff noticed his jaw had dropped. “Every day I feel like I’m improving but I’ve gotta think what I say before I say it,” he says. 

Stroke survivor and Stroke Foundation speaker Tony Finnernan tells people how to recognise the signs and symptoms of a stroke and what they can do to minimise the risks.  

Unlike cardiac arrest, the former bus driver tells AMSA’s Stuart Torrance, stroke is a brain injury caused by clots that impede the flow of blood to the brain. “When brain cells don’t get enough blood, they die off quickly,” he says. 

There are two types of stroke: the most common is an ischaemic stroke, arising from clots. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts. On the day of his stroke on Easter Sunday, 2013, Tony was having trouble holding down fluids or meals. His wife called an ambulance later that day, and as he was undergoing tests, Tony experienced a 40-minute seizure caused by clots. For the next three weeks, he was “off the planet”, completely paralysed and intubated. “I was cognitive but I couldn’t get the receptors back,” he says. 

Tony can no longer drive and after 13 weeks of rehab, he had to learn how to talk, eat and walk. His vision was impacted and he became a left-hander owing to spasticity in his right hand. It could have been a lot worse had his wife not called an ambulance. 

“Time is a major factor,” he says.

The Stroke Foundation wants everyone to act F. A. S. T. “It’s like a baseball strategy, you only need one strike and you’re out.”

F stands for Face. If a person’s smile starts to droop, the muscles sink, or their tongue twists from side to side, ring 000.

A is for Arms: can they lift both arms? “One side will be weaker,” says Tony. “And their legs might be affected.” If any limbs are incapacitated call 000. 

S is for Speech: If it is slurred, call 000. 

“There is no real first aid for strokes,” says Tony. “Call the ambulance. Time is really critical. Every 15 minutes, is the loss of a peapod in your brain. Think fast, act fast, and call 000. Time is brain.”

Knowing “your numbers” is key to preventative action: blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol. Other recommendations for Shedders are:

- Eat a balanced diet

- Reduce saturated fats, salt, and sugar

- Include fresh fruit and nuts

- Avoid processed foods

- Stay active, at least 30 minutes daily of exercise

- Don’t smoke

- Drink alcohol in moderation

“A stroke is preventable … it’s a good news story,” concludes Tony. 

Listen to the full Shedders Wireless podcast. 

Tony is a member of the Stroke Foundation Consumer Council and also runs his own Stroke Support Group in Bankstown.

In May he was awarded the Stroke Foundation's Volunteer of the Year Award

Read also

Blokes and Strokes campaign targets all Aussies (AMHF 29 June 2023) 


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