October 29th is observed as World Stroke Day. Events are held on that day to raise awareness on the prevention and treatment of the disease and to ensure better care and support for survivors. The disease can make a person go from complete independence to complete dependence in a matter of minutes.
The pandemic, amongst many other diseases, led to an increase in cases related to stroke which occurs when blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, resulting in oxygen starvation, and consequent brain damage. Without blood flow, brain cells can be damaged or could even die. It is most frequently caused by a clot in an artery supplying blood to the brain, a situation known as ischemia. It can also be caused by a haemorrhage when a burst vessel causes a blood leak in the brain.
The impact of the disease can be both short-term and long-term, depending on which part of the brain is affected and how quickly it is treated. Stroke survivors can experience a wide range of disabilities, including difficulty with mobility, speech, thinking and feeling. Stroke can cause permanent damage, including partial paralysis and impairment in speech, comprehension and memory.
“Covid-19 infection increases an individual’s risk of stroke. This is the case even for younger people and those with no other stroke-related risk factors. The medical fraternity and frontline warriors around the world have worked hard to put in place treatment procedures that reduce the risk of infection in hospitals. It is more important than ever that we know the signs of stroke and seek emergency medical treatment,” says Dr Kamlesh M Chawda, Senior Neurologist, Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad.
We can recognize the onset of a stroke if we keep an eye out for warning signals like sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, and sudden confusion, or trouble in speaking, understanding. There could also be sudden sight-related issues, in one or both eyes, as well as trouble in walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination. Age makes us more susceptible to strokes, as does having a mother, father, or another close relative who has had a stroke.
Also Read: WHO – World Stroke Day
But there are many risk factors that one can control. To prevent a stroke one should maintain normal BP, and lose excess weight. Exercise regularly, quit smoking, consume alcohol at moderate levels, and treat diabetes and atrial fibrillation. “If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk,” adds Dr Kamlesh.
Strokes are more likely to be fatal, in men than in women. Stroke can not only kill you, but non-fatal strokes can leave you debilitated, paralyzed or unable to communicate. Early treatment with medications like tPA (clot) can minimise brain damage. Other treatments focus on limiting complications and preventing additional strokes.
The onset of the disease is a dramatic event, both for the victim and the family.