New treatment brings hope for stroke recovery

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A landmark Australian study has revealed an innovative and promising new treatment option for stroke sufferers. The treatment improves a patient's chances of recovery and reduces the risk of major disability following a strokei.

The findings from the study, conducted by the George Institute for Global Health and published in May 2013, have the potential to revolutionise stroke treatment and recoveryi. The study discovered that by intensively lowering blood pressure in 2,800 patients with intracerebral haemorrhage, the risk of major disability was reduced and chances of recovery were improved by as much as 20%i.

The new treatment has the potential to significantly reduce the impact a stroke can have on a victim's life and is less risky than brain surgery, which until now was the only other optioni. This treatment option is said to offer a safe and efficient alternative that improves the patient's recovery both physically and psychologicallyi. Professor Craig Anderson, neurologist at the University of Sydney and pioneer of this study, has said that he "hope[s] to see hospital emergency departments around the world implement the new treatment as soon as possible"i.

Recent findings from a study led by an Australian health research institute bring new hope for stroke survivors.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when an artery supplying blood to the brain bursts or becomes blockedii. It is a serious, potentially fatal medical event that can result in lifelong disability of varying degrees, comaiii or deathii. Survival and recovery depends on the severity of the stroke and how quickly a person can be treatedi,iv.

There are two types of strokes: ischaemic and haemorrhagic. Ischaemic strokes are the more common type and occur when there is a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. Haemorrhagic strokes are the more serious type and occur when an artery in the brain bursts, causing bleeding in the brain. This type of stroke is usually caused by high blood pressure or diseases involving blood vessels in the brainiii. By intensively lowering blood pressure in patients during the early stages of a haemorrhagic stroke (as recommended by the George Institute study), bleeding in the brain can be slowed and further damage can be preventedi.

Medical assistance

Identifying a stroke and seeking immediate medical assistance can potentially make the difference between life and death, full recovery and permanent disability. Indicative symptoms of a stroke include weakness in the face, arms, or legs; paralysis down one side of the body; dizziness or loss of balance; and difficulty speakingi.

Strokes, linked to lifestyle factors including high blood pressure, can be fatal or leave the sufferer with a permanent disability.

The road to recovery

Stroke survivors not only have to cope with physical changes to their body, but emotional changes as well. Support from family and friends, as well as rehabilitation guided by healthcare professionals play an important part in recoveryv. Speech, occupational and physical therapists can help patients understand and adjust to the changes in their body, and learn how to live with these changesv. To become better informed about the risks and effects of a stroke, visit the National Stroke Foundation website. On the site you can find information on how to identify a stroke and the risk factors. Otherwise, call the National Stroke Foundation's stroke hotline (1800 STROKE) to talk to health professionals for free information and advice.

Strokes are one of the leading causes of deathvi, illness and disability in Australia. It is linked, in part, to lifestyle factors including poor diet, insufficient exercise, and untreated vascular disease. Making lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of stroke.

The effects of a serious illness like a stroke however are not solely medical, and sadly many people do not realise the financial impact of such illnesses until they have already occurred. A stroke may leave you unable to work and support your loved ones, and in need of long term, ongoing care. It's important to plan for the future to ensure you and your family are covered in the event of unexpected tragedy, such as a stroke. With life insurance from Allianz, including Critical Illness cover you may receive financial help for medical bills and subsequent loss of income from death, prolonged illness, or permanent disability. Contact Allianz today for more information about the Allianz Life Plan, and the cover options we offer; Life Cover, Critical Illness cover and Permanently Unable to Work cover.

iThe George Institute for Global Health 2013, New treatment for stroke set to increase chances of recovery, viewed 11 July 2013,

iiHeart Foundation, Cardiovascular conditions, viewed 11 July 2013,

iiiBetter Health Channel 2013, Coma, viewed 7 August 2013,

ivBetter Health Channel 2013, Stroke - signs and symptoms, viewed 7 August 2013,

vBetter Health Channel 2013, Stroke - the after effects, viewed 11 July 2013,

viAustralian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 3303.0 Causes of Death, Australia, 2011, viewed 4 September 2013,