Prevent Stroke or paralysis is one of the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Somewhere in the world every 10 seconds there is a stroke victim. Every 3 minutes someone dies of stroke. Stroke reduces mobility in more than 50 percent of the affected.
- What are the common stroke warnings symptoms ? Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg especially on one side of body. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination. Sudden severe headache with no known cause are the common warning signals of an impending stroke.
- What are the risk factors that can cause stroke, but cannot be modified ? In some families strokes are common.This shows some degree of genetic susceptibility. As you age , the incidence of stroke increases due to progressive narrowing of the brain arteries. Males are more prone to have strokes then females. In certain ethnic groups strokes are more common.
- What are the risk factors that can be modified to reduce the incidence of stroke ? High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, diabetes, overweight individuals and previous stroke or transient ischemic attack can also raise your stroke risk. Avoiding smoking and drinking too much alcohol, eating a balanced diet and getting exercise are all choices you can make to reduce your risk.
- What about obesity as young adult ? Obesity as young adult sets stage for heart disease and stroke. Young adults who are overweight begin to develop high blood pressure and other heart problems that may put them at higher risk to develop stroke. As per data published in Circulation, it is critical for countries facing an obesity epidemic to focus their attention on young children. Efforts to lower weight may be more effective in children then adults. Heart diseases and strokes are number one and two causes of death worldwide.
- What about atrial fibrillation and strokes ? Atrial fibrillation is a heart disease rhythm disorder. It increases stroke risk 5 times. The heart beats irregularly particularly the upper chambers. This allows the blood to pool in the upper chambers, form a clot to travel to the brain and cause a stroke. If you have atrial fibrillation know your stroke risk and get treated appropriately. Sleep apnea is also linked to atrial fibrillation and can increase the risk of stroke.
- What about other heart diseases and stroke ? People who have coronary heart disease or heart failure are at higher risk of stroke than people who have healthy hearts. Dilated cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease and some types of congenital heart defects can also raise the risk of stroke.
- Is there a correlation between sickle cell disease and stroke? This treatable genetic disorder is common in some parts of India. Sickle Red blood cells are less able to carry oxygen to the body tissues and organs. These cells also tend to stick to blood vessel walls , which can block arteries to the brain and can cause a stroke.
- What about physical activity and stroke prevention ? Physical inactivity increases chances of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. All these lead to an increased risk of stroke. So go on a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes per day for all seven days a week and reduce your chances of stroke and heart attack.
- What about birth control pills and smoking ? Taking both together greatly increases the risk. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system and pave the way for a stroke. Quit smoking now and lower the risk of stroke.
- What about sleep habits and stroke ? Recent studies have begun to clarify the reasons that people who get regular, good quality sleep tend to have lower heart disease and stroke risks. Adopt habits that promote healthy sleep patterns.
You can benefit your heart and brain by reducing risk factors that may lead to stroke or heart attack. Some diseases like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol may require treatment on life long basis. Quit smoking and walk regularly to prevent stroke.
Author: Dr Jay Deshmukh
M.B.B.S., M.C.P.S., F.C.P.S., M.N.A.M.S., MD
(Internal Medicine – Bombay and New Delhi)
Chief Physician and Director, Sunflower Hospital, Nagpur