Free UC program helps reduce repeat stroke risk


A stroke is one of the most frightening medical experiences one can have in life, and no one wants a repeat.

Although improvements in diet and exercise can reduce the risk of another stroke or heart attack by 80 per cent, fewer than two per cent of Australian participants in cardiac rehabilitation are people who have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke).

“It’s pretty much the same in cardiac rehabilitation programs around the world,” says Dr. Nicole Freene from the University of Canberra. “Internationally, however… there are no systems in place to make this possible.”

The good news for Canberrans is that Dr. Freene is leading a new free cardiovascular rehabilitation (CVR) program at the University of Canberra for people who have had a TIA, minor stroke or heart disease.

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dr Freene hopes the study results will provide evidence that will eventually lead to similar programs becoming routine referrals for those suffering from TIA or a minor stroke, thereby improving the overall heart health of Australians.

The six-week program teaches participants how to take care of their brains and hearts. Each week is about:

  • 60-minute individually tailored group training sessions led by a qualified physical therapist/exercise physiologist.
  • 60-minute group training sessions to teach participants how the heart and brain work, how to manage symptoms and reduce risk factors. These are supplied by dieticians, psychologists, pharmacists, physical therapists and exercise physiologists.
  • A fun and supportive environment that helps participants keep their hearts and brains healthy.
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“One in ten stroke survivors will have another stroke within a year,” says Dr. Freene. “One in five people who have had one Transient Ischemic Attack or TIA puts you at risk of having a stroke within 90 days.

“Participation in a comprehensive secondary prevention program such as the CVR program, which aims to improve fitness and nutrition as well as address other risk factors, can significantly reduce this risk.”

In addition to educating about the benefits of exercise, the sessions cover how to manage stress, anxiety and depression. heart and stroke medications; dealing with symptoms; and nutritional advice.

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As a course, participants will be empowered to self-manage these risk factors and reduce their risk of further cardiovascular events.

The CVR program is funded by a grant from the ACT Health Research and Innovation Fund, allowing the program to run over a two-year period. The meetings are held on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

If you are interested in participating or have any questions, please contact Inga Eveston on 0484 529 646 or [email protected]

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