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Act F.A.S.T to Prevent Stroke: Importance of Stroke Awareness and Emergency Response

  • October 30, 2023
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Act F.A.S.T to Prevent Stroke: Importance of Stroke Awareness and Emergency Response

 

Stroke is a significant global health concern, impacting millions of lives each year. It's crucial to comprehend what a stroke is, the statistics surrounding it, the causes, and the warning signs to mitigate its impact. Let's delve into these aspects in this blog.

What is Stroke?

A stroke, often referred to as a "brain attack," occurs when there is a disruption in the blood supply to the brain. This can happen in two primary ways:

  1. Ischemic Stroke: This is the more common type, accounting for about 87% of all strokes. It results from a blocked or narrowed blood vessel, reducing blood flow to the brain.
  2. Hemorrhagic Stroke: Less common but more severe, this type occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain.

The consequences of a stroke can be devastating, ranging from mild to severe, and can include paralysis, loss of speech, memory problems, or even death. Prompt medical attention is crucial to minimize damage.

Statistics of Stroke Worldwide and in India

Stroke is a global health challenge with significant variations in prevalence and outcomes worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stroke is the second leading cause of death globally, responsible for approximately 11% of total deaths.

In India, the prevalence of stroke is alarmingly high. The country has witnessed a growing burden of stroke over the years, primarily due to lifestyle changes, increased stress, and risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes. It's estimated that around 1.8 million Indians suffer from stroke each year, with nearly one-third of them succumbing to it. Moreover, stroke affects people at a younger age in India compared to Western countries, further emphasizing the need for awareness and preventive measures.

Causes of Stroke

Understanding the causes of stroke is essential to prevent this potentially life-altering event. Several factors contribute to the risk of stroke:

  1. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): Elevated blood pressure is one of the primary risk factors for stroke.
  2. Smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of blood clots, making it a significant contributor to stroke risk.
  3. Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels over time, increasing the likelihood of stroke.
  4. Obesity: Excess weight can lead to other risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.
  5. High Cholesterol: Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to the formation of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, increasing the risk of blockages.
  6. Heart Disease: Conditions such as atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) can cause blood clots, which may travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
  7. Unhealthy Diet: A diet high in saturated and trans fats, salt, and low in fruits and vegetables can contribute to stroke risk.

Symptoms of Stroke

Recognizing the signs of a stroke is crucial because early intervention can make a significant difference in the outcome. Remember the acronym FAST to identify the common warning signs:

  • F stands for Facial Weakness: Sudden drooping or numbness on one side of the face.
  • A is for Arm Weakness: Inability to raise one or both arms.
  • S represents Speech Difficulty: Slurred speech or difficulty speaking.

Other common symptoms may include:

  • Sudden severe headache
  • Trouble walking, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion, trouble understanding, or difficulty speaking and listening

If you or someone near you experiences these symptoms, do not hesitate – seek medical attention immediately. Every minute counts when it comes to stroke.

Preventing stroke is paramount, especially given the severe consequences it can have. In this section, we will discuss essential preventive measures and the immediate steps to take during a stroke emergency.

Preventive Tips to Reduce the Risk of Stroke

  1. Manage Hypertension: Keeping blood pressure in a healthy range through lifestyle changes and medications is one of the most effective ways to reduce stroke risk.
  2. Quit Smoking: Smoking doubles the risk of stroke, but quitting can significantly lower this risk.
  3. Control Diabetes: Maintaining blood sugar levels within a target range helps prevent stroke, along with various other health benefits.
  4. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Losing excess weight and adopting a balanced diet can lower stroke risk.
  5. Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in regular exercise helps control weight, reduce blood pressure, and improve overall cardiovascular health.
  6. Balanced Diet: Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting saturated and trans fats.
  7. Limit Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure and lead to other risk factors. Moderation is key.
  8. Treat Heart Conditions: If you have heart conditions like atrial fibrillation, follow your doctor's recommendations for managing them.
  9. Medication Adherence: If prescribed medications to manage risk factors, take them as directed.
  10. Regular Health Check-ups: Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help detect and manage risk factors.

7 Immediate Steps to Follow During a Stroke Emergency

When someone exhibits signs of a stroke, every second counts. It's crucial to act quickly and seek emergency medical attention. Here are the steps to take during a stroke emergency:

  1. Call For Emergency: Dial emergency services immediately. Don't wait to see if the symptoms improve; time is of the essence.
  2. Note the Time: Make a mental note of when the symptoms started, as this information can influence treatment options.
  3. Do Not Drive: Do not attempt to drive the person to the hospital. An ambulance is equipped to provide appropriate care en route.
  4. Keep the Person Calm: Reassure the person experiencing the stroke and keep them as calm as possible.
  5. Do Not Offer Food or Medication: Avoid offering food, drinks, or medications to the person, as they may have trouble swallowing.
  6. Stay Prepared: If you or someone you know is at risk of stroke, it's wise to know the nearest stroke-ready hospital or medical facility. Many hospitals are designated as Primary Stroke Centers, equipped to provide specialized care for stroke patients.
  7. Follow Medical Advice: Once medical professionals arrive, they will assess the situation and provide necessary treatment. Follow their recommendations and be prepared to share information about the person's medical history.

Stroke is a medical emergency, and a swift response can make a significant difference in the outcome. Preventing stroke, on the other hand, requires lifestyle modifications and regular health check-ups to manage risk factors effectively. By taking proactive measures and being prepared for a stroke emergency, we can work together to reduce the impact of this potentially life-altering event.