29th October’ 2019 was marked as World Stroke Day. In just ten years, the risk of stroke for people above 25 years of age has increased from 1 in 6 to 1 in 4 people. The basic message of World Stroke Day this year was ‘Don’t Be the One’. Since 90% of strokes are associated with ten modifiable risk factors, The World Stroke Organization (WSO) aims to 'Cut Stroke in Half'.
Effect of Stroke on people
Today, stroke or Cerebro-Vascular Accident (CVA) is the second leading cause of death and the number one cause of dysfunction and disability worldwide. Depending on which part of the brain is affected by stroke and how quickly it is treated, Stroke can have short-term and long-term effects on a person. Stroke survivors can experience a number of disabilities including difficulty with mobility and speech. Fast access to treatment can save lives and improve recovery from stroke.
Stroke/brain attack is basically of two types- Ischemic Stroke and Hemorrhagic Stroke.
Ischemic stroke- Ischemia means lack of adequate blood supply. Ischemic strokes occur when there is an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain due to fatty deposits in the blood vessel (atherosclerosis). Obstruction of blood flow in a blood vessel that supplies the brain can lead to the formation of a blood clot.
Hemorrhagic Stroke- Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel of the brain ruptures and causes bleeding in the brain. The blood builds up and causes pressure on the surrounding brain tissue.
Signs of Stroke- It is important to recognize the signs of stroke early and treat it like a medical emergency. Admission to a specialized stroke unit, and availability of best professional care can significantly improve outcomes in terms of survival and recovery. The symptoms of stroke can be remembered using the word FAST: Face -Is the person’s face drooping to one side? Arms- Can the patient lift both his/her arms up or is there weakness in one arm? Speech- Is the patient’s speech slurred? Time – In case these symptoms are present, it is important to call emergency services.
Some other symptoms of a stroke are-
§ Numbness or weakness in the arm, leg and face especially on one side of the body
§ Difficulty seeing in one or both the eyes with vision blackened or blurred or double vision
§ Difficulty in walking
§ Loss of balance or coordination
§ Confusion &
§ Severe, sudden headache with an unknown cause
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA or mini-stroke)
A Transient Ischemic Attack is caused by a brief disruption in the supply of blood to an area of the brain. TIA can cause symptoms same as that of a stroke, but unlike a stroke these symptoms last for a short time and usually resolve fully within 24 hours. People, who have a Transient Ischemic Attack, are at risk of further TIAs in the future or a full stroke. Therefore, it is important that they see a doctor, who can look at the underlying cause of TIA and provide treatment for the same.
90% of strokes are associated with ten modifiable risk factors that are described below-
1. High Blood Pressure- Half of all strokes are caused by high blood-pressure. Controlling your BP with the help of medication and lifestyle changes can help to prevent stroke
2. Lack of Exercise- More than one third of all strokes occur in people, who don’t exercise.
30 minutes of exercise five times in a week can reduce your chances of getting a stroke
3. Unhealthy diet- About one fourth of all strokes occur due to unhealthy diet. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and decreased consumption of processed foods lowers a person’s chances of getting a stroke.
4. High Cholesterol- More than one in four strokes occurs due to high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Consuming low saturated fats and less of processed food can help to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol. If you are unable to maintain a healthy cholesterol level with dietary changes, your doctor may prescribe you medications for keeping cholesterol levels in the normal recommended range.
5. Over-weight- According to World Stroke Organization, more than one in five strokes occur due to being overweight. Therefore, it is important to maintain your ideal BMI in order to reduce the risk of stroke.
6. Smoking- About one in ten strokes are linked to smoking. You can reduce your chances of stroke by seeking medical help for quitting smoking.
7. Excessive intake of alcohol- Excessive consumption of alcohol is linked to over one million cases of stroke every year.
8. Identify and treat Atrial Fibrillation- People with Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heart beat) are 5 times more prone to get a stroke. People above the age of 50 years should get a routine check- up of the heart done. If Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is detected, it is important to get it treated.
9. Manage Diabetes- Diabetes puts you at higher risk of stroke. If you have diabetes, consult your doctor to reduce your risk of stroke.
10. Manage Stress & Depression- Almost one in 6 strokes is linked to mental health- anger, anxiety and depression.
(Dr. Aarti MIshra is a Medical Communications Specialist)