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World Stroke Day: How to recognise symptoms and act quickly

October 29, 2017 07:30 IST

When it comes to strokes, 'Time is brain,' and the quicker you get medical attention, the better.

Headache stroke


When it comes to strokes, "Time is brain," and the quicker you seek medical attention, the better, says Dr P N Renjen, Senior Consultant, Neurologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

This year, on World Stroke Day, October 29, medical professionals across the world have focused attention on raising awareness of the fact that a stroke is a preventable and treatable catastrophe.

More than fifth of all strokes occur in developing countries.

The incidence of stroke is the same for men and women till the age of 50 years and after that the women are at higher chances of developing stroke. The lifetime risk of stroke after 50 years of age is one in five for women and one in six for men.

Increasing life expectancy at birth, rapid urbanisation, changing lifestyles and rising stress levels are bound to increase stroke cases.

Those suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and intake of oral contraceptives are especially at risk. Vegetarians are more prone to stroke because of deficiency of Vitamin B12, which causes increase in the level of homocysteine which accelerates process of atherosclerosis.

It is possible for a person who has a stroke to suffer little or no brain damage or long-term disability, especially if the stroke is treated promptly.

"It is like a heart attack for the brain, where part of the brain does not get blood supply. when your brain is not getting oxygen, not only does it not function properly, but you can lose capabilities for the rest of your life. That's why we talk about reacting so quickly to these things," says Dr Renjen.


How to recognize stroke symptoms quickly

Numbness or weakness: Symptoms may include a drooping face, slurred speech, or paralysis of a limb. Often only one side is affected.

Confusion: A stroke can make it difficult to speak or understand words (aphasia).

Vision problems: Vision may dim or be lost entirely in one or both eyes. It may also become difficult to move the eyes.

Trouble walking: A stroke can cause staggering, poor balance, and a sense of dizziness, clumsiness, or impaired coordination.

Severe headache: A stroke may cause a sudden, violent headache

Women may report unique stroke symptoms: Sudden hiccups, sudden nausea, sudden general weakness, sudden chest pain, sudden shortness of breath and palpitations

What are the effects of a stroke?

The type of disability caused by a stroke depends on the extent of brain damage and what part of the brain is damaged.

Stroke may cause paralysis or weakness of one side of the body, an inability to walk, permanent memory problems, mood changes, trouble speaking or understanding speech, problems with eating and swallowing, pain, depression, and other problems.

That's why it is important to increase the awareness 'Time is brain' and treatment started early and the use of thrombolytic agents in first 4.5 hours after stroke decreases the mortality and morbidity of a stroke.

How to prevent a stroke?

Keeping blood pressure (BP) in check: High BP is a potent risk factor for stroke. If the higher number (systolic) is more than 135, or if the lower one (diastolic) is more than 90, you should go to a doctor for evaluation. Lifestyle changes and perhaps medication may be in order to bring your BP back into the normal range.

Manage diabetes: Diabetes does not cause any obvious symptoms until it is in its advanced stages. If you have not done so recently, go to a doctor and get your blood sugar checked. This is especially important if you are overweight or if other people in your family have diabetes.

Quit Smoking: If you have a family history of stroke or any other stroke risk factors, such as high BP or elevated cholesterol, quitting smoking can significantly reduce your stroke risk.

Lose weight and exercise: If you are overweight, losing a few pounds is an excellent way to minimize your stroke risk. Eating healthy is the most effective way to accomplish this, especially when combined with physical activity. Even a brisk walks for half an hour or so per day can help you lose weight and decrease your chances of ever suffering a stroke.

Know and understand your cholesterol levels: Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad kind of cholesterol and a reliable marker of heart disease and stroke.

Eat healthy: A healthy diet is probably the most effective way of keeping a low stroke risk, because it can protect you from developing high BP, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and more.

Look after your heart: An irregular heartbeat or other heart condition is linked to 9 per cent of strokes. Talk to your doctor about possible treatment to reduce your risk.

Rediff Get Ahead
Source: ANI