Stroke

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood may stop moving through an artery because it is blocked by a blood clot or plaque (ischaemic stroke) or because the artery breaks or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke) [34562].

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 artery that causes an ischaemic stroke.  Sometimes the river breaks at its weakest point and floods, like the burst artery 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.

Stroke is a problem in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience stroke often [32961] [27397], and at relatively young ages [27397] [22639]. A lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a disability caused by stroke [22639], and stroke is responsible for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths [33152] [22639]. In part, this is because the risk factors for stroke, such as diabetes, are fairly common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people [22639] [32052] [27711] [28321]. 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) [34562].

It is important that all people who have a stroke receive equally good care, particularly in hospital. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous stroke patients receive the same or a similar quality of stroke care much of the time [22639]. However, there are some aspects of best-practice stroke care that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to receive than non-Indigenous people, such as hospital treatment in a dedicated stroke unit, and this needs to be improved. One way to improve care would be to embed stroke units in more regional hospitals, reducing the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to travel away from family and community [34018].

References

Key resources

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Artwork

Ceremonial Grounds by Jimmy Njamme Tjampitjin

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have passed away.
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