October 24, 2018

World Stroke Day

World Stroke Day is observed on October 29th every year to create awareness on the impact, prevention and treatment of stroke, as well as to address the urgent need for stroke education and improved support for stroke survivors. In 2010, World Stroke Organization (WSO) declared stroke as a public health emergency. The “One in Six” campaign was launched to highlight that one in six people worldwide will experience a stroke in their lifetime.

The campaign is aimed towards educating the general public about stroke, as well as how they can play a part by learning more for their loved ones who are at risk of or survivors of stroke. The World Stroke Day 2018 saw numerous events held across at least 50 countries to achieve this cause, with the theme #UpAgainAfterStroke.

What is stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain cells is obstructed, leading to death of these cells.

Types of stroke

There are three main types of stroke:

  • Ischaemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery in the brain, depriving the brain cells of oxygen-rich blood supply. Most (87%) stroke patients belong to this group.
  • Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Brain cells are damaged from the pressure caused by leaked blood.
  • Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), in which the blood flow to the brain is briefly interrupted, usually no longer than 5 minutes. This is considered a warning sign and must be brought to a doctor’s attention immediately.

Who is at high risk of stroke?

The risk factors for stroke include history of previous stroke or TIA, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol level, unhealthy diet, smoking habit, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption. In addition, the risk is also higher with a family history of stroke or high blood pressure, older age and in females. People with one or more risk factors are at higher risk of getting a stroke.

Act FAST                                                   

Speedy intervention is of utmost importance for stroke patients. If a person is suspected to have had a stroke, getting help on time might mean the difference between recovery and lifelong disability or death.

FAST recognition and action may improve the outcome of stroke.

The following are steps to identify a stroke FAST:

  • Face - Ask the patient to smile. Watch for droopiness on one side of the face or asymmetry in the smile.
  • Arm- Ask the patient to lift both arms upward in front of the body. Watch for droopiness in one arm or inability to lift the arm.
  • Speech- Ask the patient to repeat simple sentences. Listen to the patient’s speech for slurred words or any strangeness.
  • Time- Timely treatment is very important for stroke patients. Make sure that the patient receives treatment at the nearest hospital immediately.

    It is helpful to note the time of the first symptom, as this may affect the treatment decision.

Care for post-stroke patients

Post-stroke patients may need rehabilitation in order to regain as much function and independence as possible. Rehabilitation for post-stroke patients includes the following:

  • Physiotherapy helps to retrain the brain to use limbs that have lost function.
  • Speech therapy helps to improve speech and swallowing.
  • Psychological support such as counselling helps patients and loved ones to cope with the emotional impact of stroke.
  • Proper nursing care is important in handling bladder/bowel functions and preventing bedsores in bedridden patients.
  • Well-balanced meals, regular exercise and medications reduce the risk of another stroke.
Post-stroke physical therapy helps patients relearn use of limbs, thus regaining independence and improves quality of life.

Stroke patients are never alone

Post-stroke patients may find comfort from other stroke survivors’ stories. Interacting with others who have gone through a similar plight may help to prevent depression or stress. It is important that stroke patients know there is life after stroke and do not give up.

Prevention is always better than cure

Staying active in senior age reduces risk of age-related ailments such as stroke.

A stroke can attack anyone regardless of age or background. It is imperative that we incorporate good habits into our daily lives to reduce the risk of stroke as well as other health issues. These habits include regular exercise and eating healthy, all of which are helpful in controlling body weight, diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol level. We should also learn to manage stress and cut away harmful habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake.


References

  1. World Stroke Campaign. Face the facts: stroke is treatable. Available at https://www.worldstrokecampaign.org/learn/face-the-facts-stroke-is-treatable.html. Accessed on 7 November 2018.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Types of stroke. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/types_of_stroke.htm. Accessed on 7 November 2018.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conditions that increase risk for stroke. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/conditions.htm. Accessed on 7 November 2018.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Behaviors that increase risk for stroke. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/behavior.htm. Accessed on 7 November 2018.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Family history and other characteristics that increase risk for stroke. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/family_history.htm. Accessed on 7 November 2018.
  6. National Stroke Association. Act FAST. Available at http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/recognizing-stroke/act-fast. Accessed on 7 November 2018.
  7. Pollack MR, Disler PB. Rehabilitation of patients after stroke. Med J Aust. 2002;177(8):452-6.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing stroke – healthy living. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/healthy_living.htm. Accessed on 7 November 2018.
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