Whenever stroke is mentioned, what comes to mind is the brain, speech, paralysis etc. In this article, Ejekwu Joy writes on stroke as an ailment that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain.
Stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke).
Stroke has some risk factors such as high blood pressure, cardiac disease, diabetes milletus, ageing, smoking and obesity, while other factors can include race, gender, medical history and lack of exercise.
However, there could be warning signs of sudden weakness, numbness on one side of the body, blurring or dimmed vision on one side of the eye and sudden severe headache, as well as sudden nausea or vomiting and sudden speech difficulty or slurred speech. Experts usually urge people to seek medical attention when any of the signs are noticed.
Statistics, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO, showed that stroke was higher in men than women and so there is need to exercise regularly because it occurs without warning and has rendered many totally or partially paralysed.
Director, Stroke Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital, Stanley Tuhrim, said every 40 seconds; someone in the United States has a stroke which is now the fifth leading cause of death nationwide and the second cause worldwide, noting that early detection and treatment are crucial because time lost is brain lost.
He added that patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first symptoms tend to have better outcomes than those who received delayed care.
“Today, thanks to early detection, aggressive treatment and new intervention therapies, more stroke patients are returning to normal life with limited or no disability. Despite these accomplishments, it is clear that there is still more work to be done to reduce the burden of stroke in our community. The challenge remains to educate as many people as possible about its earliest warning signs and symptoms, so patients can get the immediate treatment that they need,” he advised.
He emphasized that stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Its risk increases with age, though it can occur at any age. More than a third of people hospitalised for stroke are younger than 65. It also affects women disproportionately.
“About 55,000 more women have a stroke each year. Major risks include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. About half of Americans have at least one of these three risk factors.’’
Similarly, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stroke Care International, SCIN,
Mrs Gloria Ekeng, during a walk and screening exercise, said Nigeria has over 16,000 new cases annually.
She said in reality, without proper data, it is impossible to know the exact amount of stroke cases that occur every year. ”The estimate is between 40 to 60 percent, our data is incomplete because we do not have information on cases in villages and rural areas,” she said.
Ekeng noted that most people have failed to realise that stroke is a medical condition, saying many have continued to blame it on witchcraft and curse, adding that the warning signs include persistent headache that does not respond to painkillers and weakness or heaviness in certain parts of the body.
Ekeng also identified obscured and blurred vision as other warning signs of stroke and stated that people whose blood pressure is terribly high are at risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
She said stroke does not discriminate and could affect anyone from 19 to 90 years.
The CEO of SCIN stressed that the World Stroke Day is observed annually on October 29, with the theme for 2015 as: `I am Woman.’’
According to her, “stroke is a non-communicable disease with significant socio-economic consequences. This year, the World Stroke Organisation, WSO, is highlighting the impact of stroke on women and steps to reduce its risk.
“SCIN will continue with WSO’s theme to campaign against stroke and its implication on the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, in Nigeria. Global studies have shown that one in six people in the world will suffer a stroke in their lifetime, while the lifetime risk is one in five women. Stroke does not discriminate and can attack anyone at any time; this calls for more sensitisation on the causes and warning signs to make for early management.’’
She said the outcome adversely affects families and the community at large.
“A study by Akinpelu and Gbiri showed that stroke has negative impact in the life of Nigerians and the country at large, contributing to great manpower and economic loss. It takes financial, physical and emotional toll on people that have loved ones suffering from stroke. They spend a lot of money in treatment and the physical strain and caring for those that cannot move about on their own can better be imagined.
“It has also been documented that the knowledge of Nigerians on stroke warning signs, stroke prevention and appropriate actions to be taken is at a very low level. There have been consistent recommendations to improve the knowledge of Nigerians in these areas.
“Efforts must be directed at improving the knowledge-base of Nigerians on stroke and to also train healthcare practitioners on the appropriate management strategies. This will go a long way in reducing its menace in our society and its attendant sequels.’’
According to Ekeng, WHO said 80 percent of premature strokes were preventable.
“WHO said regular medical checks, healthy diet, regular physical activity, moderation in alcohol consumption and not using tobacco products are some of the keys to prevention. Checking and controlling risk factors for heart diseases and stroke such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar or diabetes is also very important.
“A balanced diet is crucial to a healthy heart and circulation system. It should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and pulses with restricted salt, sugar and fat intake,’’ Ekeng advised.

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