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Stroke detecting software to be rolled out across New Zealand

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, left, meets with stroke patient Judith Allen at Wellington Hospital, assisted by clinical nurse Lai-Kin Wong.

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Judith Allen was trying to roll over in bed. Instead she fell on the floor, unable to move her limbs.

Six weeks after the stroke, the 75-years-old from Tawa is still in Wellington Hospital with half her body paralysed, recovering.

Her husband, Eddie Allen, said the couple had both been healthy for their age, staying active and watching their diet.

“It just strikes with such suddenness out of blue. There was no indication at all that anything was wrong,” he said.

Judith was rushed to hospital and within hours she had fallen into a drowsy semi sleep that gripped her for more than two weeks, leaving her unable to speak.

“I think the brain just goes into a holding pattern for a while to recover from the trauma,” her husband said.

Judith was one of several stroke patients at Wellington Hospital visited by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman on Thursday.  He was announcing the nationwide roll-out of new stroke diagnosis software for general practitioners, aimed at detecting the early signs of stroke.

These warning signs included transient ischemic attacks or mini strokes. The aim was to identify patients before they ended up in hospital.

About one in five people who suffer a mini stroke have a full-blown stroke within days.

Coleman said stroke was the third biggest cause of death in New Zealand and, while overall rates were not going up, it was increasingly affecting younger people and Maori. Early symptoms of a stroke were not picked up, he said, using the example of former All Black Piri Weepu’s stroke in 2014, which took weeks to diagnose.

“It will save lives … it brings simplicity and clarity to a very complex area,” Coleman said.

Whether the software would have picked up on early signs of Judith’s upcoming stroke is unknown.

Her recovery has been complicated by secondary bowel problem. She is planning to attend a family wedding in Auckland in December but her husband said that is unlikely.

Whether she will ever recovery the use of left side of her body, which she refers to as her “heavy lump”, is also uncertain.

However Judith remains determined to return to her old life, pointing to a teddy bear in the corner of her room holding a “be positive” sign.

“I will get there. The teddy tells me to be positive.”

STROKE IN NEW ZEALAND

* Stroke kills about 2500 people a year in New Zealand, making it the country’s third-biggest killer.

* Nearly one in three people who suffer a stroke die, while another third are left permanently disabled.

* The likelihood of suffering a stroke increases with unhealthy lifestyle choices. Alcohol, high salt intake, a lack of exercise and smoking can all increase your risk.

* High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for a stroke.

Stroke app provides hope in the face of concerning stats

Stroke riskometer

Stroke app provides hope in the face of concerning stroke statistics

Stroke is one of New Zealand’s leading killers. One in six New Zealanders will experience a stroke in their lifetime, many resulting in death or disability, yet how many of us know how to reduce our risk of having a stroke?

Up to 90 per cent of strokes could be prevented if stroke risk factors were managed appropriately. With this in mind, an app developed by an AUT Professor is aiming to reduce the incidence of stroke and save lives around the world.

The Stroke RiskometerTM is the brainchild of AUT University’s Professor Valery Feigin. It was brought to market by AUT Enterprises Ltd, so that its potential health benefits could be shared with vast numbers of people world-wide.

The free Stroke RiskometerTM app enables users to assess their individual stroke risk on a smartphone or tablet. It evaluates factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, family history and lifestyle, and is already being used by health-conscious people in more than 70 countries.

According to Professor Feigin, the Stroke RiskometerTM helps users to play an active role in managing their health.

“We don’t need to wait until stroke strikes – we can act now and take control of our health. Stroke is much easier to prevent than to treat, and by making good lifestyle choices we can reduce our chances of suffering a stroke.”

“The Stroke RiskometerTM helps people to see what impact steps like exercising more, eating a healthier diet and drinking less alcohol are having on their personal risk profile, and helps users to stay motivated and maintain the positive lifestyle changes they choose to make”, says Professor Feigin.

Users seeking additional means of managing their risks can purchase the Stroke RiskometerTM Pro, enabling them to save and track results, share their risk profile with family members and health professionals, and access internationally recognised guidelines on mitigating stroke risk factors.

Professor Feigin says users of the app will not only be taking action against stroke, but will also be managing their risk of experiencing heart disease and dementia.

The Stroke RiskometerTM is endorsed by the World Stroke Organization and is available for download through the Apple App and Google Play stores.