“It can happen to anyone — stroke doesn’t discriminate against colour, it doesn’t discriminate against age “
Seith Fourmile, Indigenous stroke survivor campaigns for culture to aid in stroke recovery
Download report BRAININJURY AUSTRALIApospaperyoungstroke2016
Acquired brain injuries in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations
- The incidence rate of stroke for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians has been found to be 2.6 times higher for men and 3.0 for women (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2008; Katzenellenbogan et al. 2010) compared to non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and many suggest that these figures may in fact be underestimates (Thrift et al 2011).
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are known to experience stroke at a younger age than their non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counterparts, (Katzenellenbogen et al., 2010; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2004) with 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander non-fatal stroke burden occurring in the 25-54 year age-group compared to 24% in the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group (Katzenellenbogen et al., 2010).
- The prevalence of stroke is similarly significantly higher at younger ages among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Katzenellenbogen 2013), with a significantly higher prevalence of co-morbidities among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients under 70 years of age, including heart failure, atrial fibrillation, chronic rheumatic heart disease, ischaemic heart disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. This reflects the increased clinical complexity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stroke patients compared with non-Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander patients.
An increasing number of young Australians are being struck down each year by a disease more commonly associated with the elderly.
Around 150,000 Australians who have suffered a stroke are under the age of 65, a figure expected to almost triple by 2050. Experts are concerned the health system is already struggling to cope with this growing younger generation of stroke survivors.
To launch Brain Injury Awareness Week (15-21 August), the Stroke Foundation will join Brain Injury Australia to shine the spotlight on stroke in young people and the critical need for better support.
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said a key part of the problem was a common misconception stroke only happened to older people.
“Stroke happens in an instant changing lives forever, and it does not discriminate. Stroke can happen to people of all ages, from newborn babies to the middle aged,” Ms McGowan said.
“Sadly, the rates of stroke in young people are on the increase largely due to factors such as poor control of lifestyle factors. Its impact will only continue to grow unless action is taken to stem the tide and improve outcomes.
“We know that education is a significant weapon in the fight against stroke. Everyone needs to be better educated about how to manage their risks and how to identify a stroke.
“This Brain Injury Awareness Week we want Australians young and old to be aware of stroke and what they can do to reduce their risk,” she said.
Ms McGowan said more needed to be done to support the individual needs of young stroke survivors in the community.
“There are currently around 150,000 young stroke survivors in Australia and sadly most of them are not getting the support they need to recover well after stroke,” Ms McGowan said.
“Our health, welfare and community care systems are not well set up to support young stroke survivors, particularly those with high care needs.
“Younger stroke survivors in Australia are more likely to have health needs related to falls, pain, concentration and vision that are not being met, limiting their return to quality life.
“We know that access to allied health support is limited under Medicare and this is a huge challenge for young stroke survivors who need ongoing support from health professionals to improve and maintain quality of life.
“We can and should be doing more to help young stroke survivors make their best recovery possible.
“Brain Injury Awareness Week is all about drawing attention to stroke in young people and the critical need for better systems of support for survivors,” she said.
To mark the launch of Brain Injury Awareness Week, Brain Injury Australia and the Stroke Foundation are hosting a free public event at the Melbourne Brain Centre today 15 August
The event will feature young stroke survivors, leading health experts and sector leaders, all coming together to talk young stroke.
More information is available at Strokefoundation.com.au/news-and-events/events/ –