What is a stroke?
It’s a condition in which the brain cells unexpectedly die because of a lack of oxygen. As a result of brain cells dying, the patient may lose the ability to speak, have memory problems or one side of the body can become paralysed. This can occur as a result of an obstruction in the blood flow, or the rupture of an artery that supplies the brain.
Is there a risk group?
A stroke can affect anyone. However, there are factors that can increase the risk for strokes. These include:
• Being over the age of 55
• Males are at high risk
• High blood pressure and high cholesterol
• If you have a family history of stroke
• Cardiovascular disease
• Cardiac arrhythmias
• Excessive use of alcohol
What preventative measures can one take?
It is important to live a healthy lifestyle, which includes:
• Following a healthy diet
• Not smoking
• Lowering cholesterol and fat intake
• Moderate alcohol consumption
• Early identification of diabetes and proper management of diabetes if diagnosed
• Patients should know and control their blood pressure
• Early diagnosis of atrial fibrillation and proper management if diagnosed
• Regular physical activity
• Managing stress effectively
Are there different types of strokes?
Yes, there are two main types of strokes: ischaemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.
Ischaemic stroke occurs when a blood clot or thrombus blocks blood flow to part of the brain.
Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel on the brain’s surface ruptures and fills the space between the brain and skull with blood or when a defective artery in the brain bursts and fills the surrounding tissue with blood (cerebral haemorrhage).
For someone who has already had a stroke, what advice would you give them?
Patients must maintain a healthy lifestyle. The patient should continue to have regular medical check-ups, so as to ensure that risks factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are monitored, and appropriately treated. It is also important for patients to comply with their medications or treatment plan prescribed by their doctors.
Are there different treatments?
Adopting a healthy lifestyle will reduce the risk of an initial stroke or the recurrence of a stroke. Treating your diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol will reduce the risk of an initial event as well as recurrence.
Patients with atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat) also have a high risk of stroke. Therefore, these patients should be diagnosed early. Depending on their risk profile, these patients may require anticoagulants (blood thinners) to reduce their risk of a stroke.
For patients that suffer an ischaemic stroke, the primary goal will be to restore blood flow. This is attempted through the use of medication as well as surgical procedures. Patients that suffer a haemorrhagic stroke may require surgical intervention. Therefore, it is important for patients to know the symptoms of a stroke which can lead to early treatment and better recovery.
Is the government doing enough to increase stroke awareness?
It is the responsibility of all parties – the general public, health care professionals and government – to increase the awareness of stroke. Through the media, social networks, educational activities (at schools, tertiary institutions, religious institutions), we could increase the awareness of stroke.