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Stroke is Australia’s second biggest killer after heart disease and our leading cause of disability*, with 60,000 Australian suffering from it each year.** Luckily, according to the National Stroke Foundation, there are some things we can do lower the risk of stroke, or if it occurs to spot the early signs so we can get help fast.

spotting the symptoms

According to the National Stroke Foundation’s CEO, Dr Erin Lalor, recognising the early signs of a stroke and seeking medical assistance as soon as possible helps save lives.

“When a stroke is suspected, every second counts – it is vital to call an ambulance immediately to give the patient the best possible chance of recovery,” she says. “There are life-saving treatments available but they are only effective if people act fast.”

The National Stroke Foundation’s FAST program helps you spot the initial signs of a stroke:

  • Facial weakness. Check the person’s face: has their mouth drooped?
  • Arm weakness. Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech difficulty. Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 immediately.

preventing a stroke

According to the National Stroke Foundation, there are some steps you can take to lower the risk of stroke. These include:

  • Managing risk factors such as an irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. See to your doctor for a diagnosis.
  • Eating a balanced diet especially one that is low in saturated fat and salt. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended and avoiding processed or canned foods as they can be high in sodium/salt.
  • Keeping active. People who participate in moderate activity are less likely to have a stroke. Try and build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking can increases your risk of stroke by increasing blood pressure and reducing oxygen in the blood. Seek advice on how you can quit smoking as soon as possible by calling the QUIT line on 13 18 48 •
  • Limiting alcohol. Your risk of stroke can be reduced with moderate alcohol intake (1-2 glasses a day). However, excessive amounts of alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke

insurance cover for strokes and other traumas

If the worst happens and you suffer a stroke, it will take a while to recover, during which time you will need to meet your usual financial obligations as well as cover the cost of recovery.

Insurance cover can help your family cope financially if you suffer from a stroke or other serious trauma. Trauma insurance payments can cover specialist medical attention, home modifications and repayment of debts (such as a mortgage).

An ipac adviser can help you determine the level of cover you need to protect your family financially. Click here to contact us for a confidential discussion about your personal circumstances.

*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2006. Australia’s Health 2006.  ** AG Thrift (personal communication). Estimates obtained using NEMESIS data (assuming no change in incidence), and Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates of a changing population.

Alzheimer's Australia NSW's ambassadors - PJ Lane, Ita Buttrose and Doris Younane

[tweetmeme only_single=false this week’s Dementia Awareness Week, experts are urging those worried about their memory to seek help sooner rather than later. 

“It is important that when someone has a genuine concern about their memory, or that of a loved one, they act sooner rather than later as this will help in receiving a timely diagnosis,” said Dr Rochford, National Ambassador for Dementia Awareness Week. 

“Early diagnosis is important in helping to get the right support, information and treatment,” he said. “Some medications are also at their most beneficial in the early stages of dementia.” 

And according to Alzheimer’s Australia, patients also report many benefits in receiving a diagnosis. 

“It was a relief to get the diagnosis,” said Fred, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “The worst was not knowing.” 

“For me, the medication has helped a lot,” said John also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “It’s lifted the fog.” 

According to Brendan Burwood, managing director of ipac’s aged care division, ipac financial care, an early diagnosis can also help people plan their lives including their finances, legal matters and future care needs. 

“When it comes to aged care arrangements, we often see a trigger event occur, meaning one of the children has to take control of situation without input from mum or dad,” said Brendan. 

“An elderly mum might be in hospital and in need of support. Then, the daughter or son realise Mum can’t live at home anymore, that she’ll need a bed in an aged-care facility.” 

“Suddenly, they are confronted with some very hard calls about where to put mum, how to fund aged care arrangements and what to do with the family home. This can be a very confronting and emotional time for the children,” explained Brendan. 

“But with an early diagnosis the family has the opportunity to plan ahead, and if they catch it early enough, the person with dementia can be involved too – choosing a power of attorney, planning their estate and making choices about their future care needs.” 

“This gives them the dignity of planning their own affairs rather than having decisions made for them in a crisis situation.” 

Maria, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia agrees that an early diagnosis helped her plan ahead. 

“We are glad we had that early diagnosis,” she said. “We have been given the chance to change our lifestyle activities to match my capabilities and to make definite plans for the future” 

For more information on early warning signs and what to do if you’re worried about your memory, visit the Alzheimer’s Australia website here or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. 

Or if you’d like help planning ahead for both the expected and unexpected, visit ipac here or call 1800 626 881.

[tweetmeme only_single=false two million Australians aged seventy and over and that number due to double in twenty years,* more and more people are being forced to make complex financial aged care decisions on behalf of their parents.

This morning Brendan Burwood, managing director of ipac financial care talked to Today‘s Karl Stefanovic about making the right aged care decisions during this emotional time.

Click here to see what he had to say.

*Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Annual Report 2008-2009

Leading a brain healthy life can reduce the risks of dementia

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Currently 257,000 people in Australia have dementia and this number is projected to double by 2030.* But according to experts, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of developing it, and improve your general health and wellbeing in the process.

“Research shows people who lead a ‘brain-healthy’ lifestyle have less chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia,” says the Honourable John Watkins, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW.

“And with more than 1,400 new cases of dementia in Australia each week and numbers of people with the illness steadily increasing, it is important all Australians do what they can to reduce their risk of developing dementia.”

That’s why Alzheimer’s Australia has developed the Mind Your Mind program with a set of clear signposts to follow to keep your brain as healthy as possible. These include staying mentally, physically and socially active, eating healthily, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake, managing blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight, and protecting against head injury.

“This is not just a case of adding ‘do more crosswords’ to your list,” says Mr Watkins.

Staying active is 'brain healthy'

“Maybe you could learn that language you have always dreamed about, pick up a new musical instrument, or join a sporting club – there are many ways to mind your mind.”

 But according to Mr Watkins leading a brain-healthy lifestyle is not a guarantee against developing dementia.

“It is important to note that following the Mind Your Mind signposts does not guarantee you won’t develop dementia, but research shows they may help reduce your risk and may even delay the onset.”

“And the good news is they are also good for your overall health and wellbeing.”

For more information on how best to mind your mind including activity ideas, eating suggestions and tips for staying socially active, check-out Alzheimer’s Australia comprehensive booklet.

*Caring Places: Planning for Aged Care and Dementia 2010 – 2050, Access Economics (July 2010)

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The popular dance-based video game that has long been an arcade favourite with youths, is now being used as a health tool to improve seniors’ balance and prevent falls. For more information click here.

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