October 29 is celebrated as World Stroke Day every year across the world. The day is marked in the calendar to raise awareness regarding stroke, physical complications caused by stroke, and its preventive measures. Various organisations arrange different events on this day to spread information about the leading causes of stroke and ways to avoid it. Feeding this purpose, this year, the day is celebrated with the slogan – 'Join the MoveMent.'
Stroke is considered to be a disease of the blood vessels of the brain. It is one of the main reasons for fatality in the world right now. The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks mortality due to stroke in Bangladesh as number 84 in the world. The crude death rate per 1,000 people in Bangladesh is reported at 5.8%; the female and male life expectancies are reported as 64.4 years old and 65.1 years old, respectively. Stroke holds the third leading position as the cause of death and paralysis in Bangladesh. However, this critical medical condition can be avoided if one is careful about their lifestyle habits and dietary consumptions.
There are two types of strokes: ischaemic stroke, and haemorrhagic stroke. It is a common misconception that a stroke can hamper the heart in a body. But the fact is, stroke is a condition where the patient's brain is affected because of blood clots. In the case of an ischaemic stroke, clotted blood is supplied to the brain, leading to a dysfunctional physical state. A haemorrhagic stroke occurs as the result of a broken blood vessel and bleeding inside the brain. Both types can be extremely critical for the patient's condition with increasing chances of death if not brought to proper medical attention on time.
A case of stroke can be identified from various signs and symptoms on the patients' physical state. The most common and easily traceable sign is the weakness or unresponsiveness of one side of the body.
A stroke on the left side of the brain will affect the right side of the body – including the face, right hand, and right leg, and similarly, an affected right-brain will affect the left portion of the body. There might be other symptoms like headache, convulsions, nausea or vomiting, blurry eyesight, physical imbalance, fainting, and a speech impediment.
The acronym 'FAST' is referred to as the keyword for primarily diagnosing a stroke, where F means facial droopiness, A means arm weakness, S means speech irregularity, and T means time to call emergency medical attention.
With advancing medical technology and high-quality drugs, stroke patients now get much more improved treatment compared to that of the past decade. Injections and stents are widely used to cure strokes via medical procedures like thrombolysis and thrombectomy. Extensive surgery, surgical clipping, and a few other methods are also obtained to ensure the blood clots do not hamper the brain any further.
However, it has to be remembered that prevention is better than cure. The global celebration of World Stroke Day and similar other events aim to promote this idea so that the percentage of casualties due to strokes decreases with time.
The first and foremost responsibility to ensure a stroke-free life would be to ensure healthy food consumption. One has to avoid high-fat foods and other items which hamper the cholesterol level. It is advised to give up the habits of smoking and consumption of alcohol. Above all, one has to be physically active and walk, run or skip rope regularly to keep their mind and body active. Those with diabetes are recommended to regularly check and control their blood-sugar level.
World Stroke Day intends to encourage people to follow such healthy and ideal lifestyle trends. World Stroke Organisation has arranged for people to show their 'funky moves' this year, which is basically a humorous approach to promote physical activity. We need more local organisations as well in Bangladesh to step out like this. An overall attempt to create awareness can help us reduce the risks of a stroke on a large scale.
The author is a Professor of Neurology and the Director of the National Institute of Neuroscience (NINS), Dhaka, Bangladesh.