One in four urban Pakistanis have suffered the symptoms of a stroke - an alarmingly high number that calls for immediate action said experts speaking on World Stroke Day, October 29 at Aga Khan University.
Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, with an estimated population of 174 million. Non-communicable diseases including stroke now account for 41per cent of the total disease burden in the country.
This is because many of the risk factors for a stroke are present in the Pakistani population. Hypertension, the single most preventable cause of stroke, affects one in three adults, 45 years and older and the same is true for diabetes. Dr Saad Shafqat, Head of Neurology, Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), pointed out that coronary artery disease is found in one in four middle aged adults, with men and women at equal risk as about a quarter of the population are obese – surprisingly 28 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men. Tobacco, another risk factor, is used by 40 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women – and worse, many chew tobacco. Stress and depression – an emerging and important risk factor – is also common.
A stroke is a medical emergency: those who feel the warning signs happening to themselves or notice symptoms in others must not ignore them and rush to a hospital straight away, pointed out Dr Ayeesha Kamal, Associate Professor Neurology, Director Stroke Program, AKUH. It is important to remember that stroke symptoms are very sudden and they may make it impossible for someone to walk to the phone, talk to an operator, or even realize anything is amiss. Since a stroke means that blood supply to the brain is interrupted and brain cells die, the quicker the treatment, the less the damage.
People can also have a TIA – a transient ischemic attack – sometimes called a mini-stroke with symptoms that last less than 24 hours before disappearing. While TIAs do not cause permanent brain damage or disability, they should not be ignored. Dr Mohammad Wasay, Consultant Neurologist AKUH, said that TIAs are a serious warning of a stroke and 10 per cent of people with a TIA will have a stroke in the next month.
But a stroke does not have to be devastating and 80 per cent of all strokes can be prevented. Speaking on the ways to reduce the chances of a stroke, Dr Bhojo Asumal Khealani, Assistant Professor and Consultant Neurologist, and Dr Romaina Iqbal, Consultant Nutritionist, AKUH mentioned that eating a healthy diet low in fat and salt, exercising regularly, keeping track of your blood pressure and not smoking, can all help significantly.
Dr Nabila Soomro spoke about the rehabilitation process and how important it is to restore independence to the stroke-affected person. Basic physical skills such as eating, walking and dressing can be learned again and people helped to adjust mentally and emotionally.
Dr Gohar Javed, Consultant Neurosurgeon at AKUH, also spoke on the occasion.
Ask the person to smile.
Does one side of the face droop?
Ask the person to raise both arms.
Does one arm drift downward?
Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?
If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important.
Get to the hospital fast.
Hassaan Akhter, Media Executive, Department of Public Affairs, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, on +92 21 3486 2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org