With brain stroke becoming the second major leading cause of death and disability globally, it has become imperative that we maximise our efforts in increasing awareness about the condition. Taking a step in that direction, World Stroke Day is observed every year on 29th October to spread awareness on brain stroke.
17 million people are affected by stroke every year while 6.5 million die of stroke every year. The survivors have to lead the rest of their lives with the morbid reality of physical disability. Thus, with neurological conditions affecting such a large section of our population, we must understand stroke and be alert of the symptoms, while trying to prevent the risk factors.
Stroke is treatable and preventable, and one must act early as ‘time lost is brain lost’. This year, the theme for World Stroke Day campaign is “Prevention”. Stroke prevention is possible through stroke awareness and active public participation.
In order to understand the how a stroke affects us, we must know the basic facts about it, which is the founding step in preventing stroke and its consequences.
What is stroke?
Stroke is commonly known as brain attack, similar to a heart attack. It is a sudden paralytic (weakness) attack affecting limbs and face with sudden loss of vision, speech, and maybe associated with/without unconsciousness.
Why it is important to know about it?
It is the second leading cause of death after heart disease, cancer and road accidents. Prior knowledge about it may go a long way in reverting its effect. There is treatment to revert the paralysis if diagnosis is done within six hours.
How many types of strokes are there?
There are two types strokes related to cause
- Ischemic stroke occurring due to less blood supply to brain caused by some obstruction in the brain blood vessels.
- Hemorrhagic stroke due to bleeding inside the brain.
Who can get it?
Any person irrespective of her age can suffer from a stroke depending on the risk factors. Those with diabetes and high blood pressure are at a higher risk of getting a stroke. Smoking, obesity, dyslipidemia (high blood cholesterol) and physical inactivity are among the other risk factors.
How do you know that a person is suffering from a stroke?
If somebody undergoes a sudden paralytic attack in their limbs, face, or are unable to see, speak, including a change in the voice might be getting a stroke. Somebody who falls unconscious after having headache, might be having stroke. One must then undergo brain imaging to diagnose whether it a brain stroke or not.
How to be sure that it is a stroke?
By getting a CT scan or brain MRI, one can be sure of a stroke occurrence. MRI brain is the best method to diagnose a stroke. It helps in detecting the tiniest stroke at the earliest stage. CT scan is good for detecting a brain hemorrhage. Other tests like DSA, Brain vessel ultrasound/Doppler can also be deployed.
What is a small or a mini stroke?
A small or a mini stroke is known as TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). It is an attack with the earlier mentioned symptoms but lasts for less than 24 hours without any CT scan /MRI change. The symptoms improve completely within 24 hours.
How do you treat a stroke?
Treatment usually depends on the type of stroke. However, there are six common types of treatment. They are thrombolysis, antiplatelets, neurosurgery, treatment of complication, supportive therapy and physiotherapy. The thrombolysis treatment is the best to overcome stroke problems. In case of thrombolysis, the symptoms can also be fully reversed if the treatment procedure is started even after three hours of onset of the stroke.
What is thrombolysis?
Thrombolysis means to dissolve the clot that occurs in the brain artery. The medicines can be given through the vein, if the person reaches the hospital within one or one and half hours of the attack. It can also be given directly to the brain artery if patient reaches after three hours of the onset. But one must be careful not to delay the treatment beyond six hours of the attack. But the drug delivery through brain artery (intra-arterial) is not available at all places. It is available in few advance neurology centres.
What are the side effects of these medicines?
The medicine is safe when given according to international protocol or standards laid down for administering the drug.
How to prevent the stroke?
Control and prevention of the risk factors are the best bet in preventing the stroke. There are certain key factors to be taken into consideration to prevent the stroke are:
-control diabetes mellitus
- control of high blood pressure
-avoid smoking and alcohol
-healthy food habits (low fat, low sugar and plenty of fruit and vegetables)
-coronary artery disease should get antiplatelets
-adequate health education
-life style modification (no smoking, no stress, and no excessive weight gain)
Therefore, it is proposed that preventing a stroke is the collective responsibility of all individuals, general public, health professionals along with government to actively participate and spread stroke prevention awareness as the way to bring a decline in the dreaded stroke disease.
Article contributed by: Dr Antaryami Nanda, Sr. Neurologist Apollo Hospital, BBSR
Feature Image Courtesy: Continental Hospitals
Banner Image Courtesy: Stroke Connection Magazine