To coincide with National Stroke Week, the Australian Medical Association warned that the more risks factors someone had, the greater their risk of having a stroke.

The AMA urged all Australians to understand that stroke can often be prevented.

Chair of the AMA's Public and Preventative Health Committee, Dr John Gullotta, said that while some risk factors cannot be controlled - such as age, gender and a family history of stroke - there were many things people could do to reduce the possibility of stroke.

"A stroke affects the brain and our ability to do things - from the way we move, think, talk and eat - and can lead to paralysis, coma and even death," he said.

Stroke is the second biggest killer in Australia and a leading cause of disability. Each year, Australians will suffer 60,000 new and recurrent strokes - that's one every 10 minutes.

Dr Gullotta said people could reduce the chance of stroke by maintaining a normal blood pressure, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

"If your blood pressure is consistently over 140/80, see your doctor about changing your diet and exercise. They may also have to put you on medication to lower your BP.

"Smoking is a double whammy. It increases your blood pressure and reduces oxygen in your blood - increasing the risk of stroke."

Dr Gullotta said high cholesterol was a contributing factor to blood vessel disease, which often lead to stroke.

"Your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your cholesterol but diet and exercise are still important.

"People should also remember that being overweight or obese could also increase the risk of stroke, as does diabetes.

"Talk to your doctor about maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent stroke," he said.

Dr Gullotta said recognising when someone was having a stroke was also vital.

"Stroke is always a medical emergency. Identifying symptoms and calling 000 could mean the difference between life and death," he said.

The FAST test involves asking three simple questions:

Face - Can the person smile, has their mouth drooped?
Arms - Can the person raise both arms?
Speech - Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time - Act FAST and call 000 immediately.

Australian Medical Association

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