A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood may stop moving through a blood vessel because it is blocked by a blood clot or plaque (ischaemic stroke) or because the blood vessel breaks or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke) [47220].

One way to think about blood supply is to compare it to a river flowing through the body [31070]. Sometimes this river gets filled with junk and gets dammed up, like the blocked blood vessel that causes an ischaemic stroke. Sometimes the river breaks at its weakest point and floods, like the burst blood vessel that causes a haemorrhagic stroke. This way of thinking about stroke was developed by some Aboriginal people in the Hunter New England part of New South Wales, and is illustrated using artwork in the booklet Stroke: Written by the Mob for the Mob.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience stroke often, and at relatively young ages [44195] [41463]. A lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a disability caused by stroke, and stroke is responsible for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths [41528] [42101] [41463]. In part, this is because the risk factors for stroke, such as diabetes, are fairly common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people [41528]. The risk factors for stroke include:

  • smoking
  • risky alcohol use
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • being overweight
  • an unhealthy diet
  • lack of exercise
  • atrial fibrillation (an irregular pulse) [41463] [47220].

It is important that all people who have a stroke receive equally good care, particularly in hospital. Unfortunately, some research has found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to receive best-practice stroke care, often due to the availability of services in rural and remote areas, access to interpreters, racism and being away from Country and their family support for treatment [38136] [38273] [36805]. This could be improved with better telehealth services, practical resources and information for patients and increased cultural understanding among hospital staff and service providers.


Key resources



Ceremonial Grounds by Jimmy Njamme Tjampitjin

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