UNDERSTANDING STROKE: A DISABILING DISEASE
Stroke is a common brain disorder affecting millions of people universally each year. People at high risk of Stroke include Diabetics, people with hyper-lipedema (high levels of fat in the blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides) and Hypertension. Stroke can cause a variety of deficits in a person, depending upon the area of brain damaged by stroke.
Stroke can be of three types depending upon the cause and severity of impact on brain.
Ischemic stroke – due to blockage of blood vessels of brain by clots.
Hemorrhagic stroke – due to rupture of blood vessels supplying blood to brain.
Transient Ischemic attack – due to short term hindrance of blood flow of brain, which is reversible but increases the risk of future stroke.
Ischemic stroke, which occurs due to blockage of blood vessels in the brain is the most common type of stroke and can be managed if patient is brought in time to the hospital. Depending upon the area of brain involved due to stroke, patients can have difficulty in speaking (Aphasia), weakness of one half of body (Hemiparesis/Hemiplegia), numbness of half body (hemi-anesthesia), imbalance while walking (Ataxia), or vision problems (Hemianopia). Mostly stroke affects an individual abruptly and leads to gruesome disabilities, even death can also occur.
Stroke brings misery to the sufferer and his/her family as it affects the physical & mental health adversely. It can also be financially very straining, depending upon the patient’s condition. It is important to understand this illness to tackle it effectively and prevention and early recognition of stroke is a key to it. Below are some important facts about stroke-
People at risk-
People with following diseases are at a higher risk of Stroke-
How to ascertain, if it is a stroke or not?
Dyslipidemia ( abnormal amount of lipids (e.g. triglycerides, cholesterol and/or fat phospholipids) in the blood)
Heart diseases- Like rhythm and valvular disorders
Sedentary life style
Addiction- Alcohol, smoking and other drugs of abuse
Some genetic factors: Basis genetics, few people are at a higher risk owing to diet & lifestyle
Many times, symptoms of stroke are detected late due to being in evolution. Therefore, it is important to recognize the stroke by remembering the pneumonic “FAST”.
F – Stands for Facial deviation
A – Arm weakness,
S – Stands for speech abnormality
T – Stands for Time, crucial for treatment of stroke
By memorizing this, anyone can remember initial problems associated with stroke and can rush to stroke treatment Centre within the window period i.e. less than 4.5 hours during which stroke buster drugs can be given to the patient.
What to do next:
Once confirmed, immediately rush the patient to a stroke treatment Centre with thrombolysis (clot buster drug) and Thrombectomy (clot retrieval system) facility. Confirm whether stroke is Ischemic or Hemorrhagic type. An urgent CT brain is recommended.
For Ischemic stroke, it is said that “Time is Brain” and it is crucial for the patient to be brought within 4.5 hours to avail clot buster injections known as thrombolytic agents. It can achieve dissolution of brain clots in most patients. If the clot is not dissolved with clot busters, removal of clot can be achieved with mechanical Thrombectomy, a procedure where clots are retrieved by a guide wire in brain vessels. Mostly patient undergoing treatment show effective results within 24 hours of treatment.
For Hemorrhagic stroke, control of blood pressure is most important.
What needs to be avoided?
Please avoid quack treatment i.e. treatment by unqualified or incompetent people such as a Baba who give multivitamin injections or non-conventional drugs. It would only amount to loss of time. Some patients & their relatives go in a denial mode, in terms of accepting and think that the symptoms will subside with time.
Most of us would have seen patients who suffered from stroke and they either partially recovered or got grossly disabled. They have to fight with disabilities in daily life. Therefore proper rehabilitation needs to be started as early as possible. Those patients who have not received proper treatment or did not reach on time develop disabilities despite getting treatment. Rehabilitation in these patients does not mean just physiotherapy of limbs, but it also involves social, occupational and mental rehabilitation. Self-dependence should be the goal of rehabilitation. It should include – Active limb physiotherapy, speech therapy, gait training, counseling for mental health, occupational skill training, relatives’ awareness campaign and regular stroke Centre visits.
Besides this, proper clot dissolving, blood pressure, diabetes and anti-spasticity medicines need to be taken into account.
How to prevent stroke?
Healthy diet & Lifestyle – Avoid fatty and spicy foods. Decrease use of dense fats like Ghee, Dalda and add fiber and fruits to your diet. Follow it up with regular walk and exercise, sound and adequate sleep; avoid stress in professional/personal life.
Control Diabetes, Hypertension & Heart Ailments – Maintain timeliness of diet and medication with ensure periodic consultation with Stroke and Heart Specialist.
Avoid addictions – Alcohol, tobacco chewing or smoking, and other recreational drugs need to be avoided.
At last, stroke can be prevented if proper measures are taken before the onset of this fatal disease and if somehow it occurs, with advance and timely management by stroke specialist distressing disabilities can be prevented. Therefore, live a life full of joy and independence, not disability bestowed by stroke.