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Mark-Vivian-2The week of 9–15 Septem­ber is Stroke Aware­ness Week. Wheth­er you are close to people who have suffered from a stroke or not, this is a very ser­i­ous busi­ness: some 9,000 New Zeal­anders are vic­tims every year. Most of these cases are preventable.

As people in busi­ness, our health can some­times slide when we are faced with oper­a­tion­al chal­lenges. Our reg­u­lar gym attend­ance or oth­er phys­ic­al activ­ity is usu­ally the first to slide in favour of late-night net­work­ing or increas­ing work­loads (wheth­er for growth or survival).

Intro­duce that to that a diet high in con­veni­ence and pre-pack­aged foods, and add those factors to high blood pres­sure in the over-50 age group, and sud­denly you’re a great can­did­ate for a stroke.

In June’s issue I wrote about busi­ness suc­ces­sion: hav­ing a plan in place to exit your busi­ness either through fam­ily or sale. Ensur­ing a plan for your busi­ness is not only essen­tial for optim­al oper­a­tion in the owner’s absence. Plan­ning for growth and busy times by adding extra staff when needed – or even tak­ing on a part­ner as a way to ease the pres­sure – is also bene­fi­cial. While stress is not the single con­trib­ut­ing factor to strokes, the out­side causes of stress are issues that can mount up over time and cause real and ser­i­ous health problems.

Strokes are usu­ally the res­ult of a com­bin­a­tion of these issues. Get­ting your blood pres­sure checked reg­u­larly, stop­ping smoking, exer­cising fre­quently, eat­ing a healthy diet and con­trolling your weight are essen­tial ways to reduce your risk of a stroke.

We don’t give enough atten­tion to pre­vent­ing strokes, pos­sibly because we think of stroke as an older person’s issue,” says Mark Vivi­an, CEO of the Stroke Found­a­tion of New Zea­l­and. “In fact, 25 per­cent of strokes hap­pen to work­ing-age Kiwis.”

The Stroke Found­a­tion has been in oper­a­tion for over 30 years, pro­mot­ing pub­lic aware­ness about the risk factors for strokes and how to recog­nise the symp­toms. Out­side of their blood pres­sure aware­ness cam­paign in Octo­ber each year, the found­a­tion encour­ages the shar­ing of the FAST check to identi­fy the onset of a stroke:

Face – SMILE (is one side droopy?)

Arms – RAISE BOTH ARMS (is one side weak?)

Speech – SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (slurred? Unable to?)

Time – Lost time could be lost brain, so get to hos­pit­al FAST

In addi­tion to this, the found­a­tion helps stroke sur­viv­ors through life-enhan­cing rehab­il­it­a­tion and sup­port groups, and is also exper­i­enced in post-stroke care strategies for those affected, includ­ing carers and fam­ily mem­bers. “The found­a­tion is a very well dis­trib­uted organ­isa­tion: we can provide free sup­port to indi­vidu­als and fam­il­ies affected by a stroke just about any­where in the coun­try,” adds Vivian.

If you think someone near you is suf­fer­ing from a stroke, remem­ber to run through the FAST check above and then dial 111 imme­di­ately – loss of time could mean a loss of brain function.


Peta Walker

Peta is FishHead's enterprise writer. A born and bred Wellingtonian, Walker is owner of BW Chartered Accountants and a long-term business adviser - she is currently fighting all the usual accounting stereotypes.. and winning. Loving long walks in the hills, her long-term ambition is to walk the entire Te Araroa walkway: at about 100 kilometres per year this is a 30-year project. She lives on a Makara lifestyle property that is also home to Pester and Lester the chickens, and cows French, Door, Blue and Vein.

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