World Stroke Day 2019: What causes a stroke and how can it be prevented

A 2017 survey conducted by ICMR found that there are 105-152 cases of stroke per 100,000 Indians. Every minute, 3 Indians suffer a stroke.

Myupchar October 29, 2019 07:30:40 IST
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World Stroke Day 2019: What causes a stroke and how can it be prevented
  • The effect of any type of stroke is debilitating - restricted blood flow alters or stops the functions of that specific part of the brain, sometimes leading to paralysis

  • A 2017 survey conducted by the ICMR found that Indians are at a higher risk of developing strokes compared with people living in the US

  • It also mentioned that there are 105-152 cases of stroke per 100,000 Indians

Each year, October 29 is observed as World Stroke Day to raise awareness and reduce the incidence of stroke across the world. The focus this year is on prevention - more specifically, "Don’t be the one" where "one" refers to the one out of four people who will have a stroke at some point in their lives.

Since June 2019, World Stroke Organisation (WSO) has started a campaign to raise awareness about the risk of stroke to each and every individual worldwide. For this, supporting members, partners and communities aim to arm people with information and the tools to protect them from strokes.

World Stroke Day 2019 What causes a stroke and how can it be prevented

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Basic understanding of a stroke

A stroke is a disease affecting the arteries of the brain. Whenever an artery carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain gets obstructed by a clot (ischaemic stroke), or ruptures (haemorrhagic stroke) - the specific part of the brain where this happens dies. There is also the possibility of a mini or temporary ischaemic stroke caused by a floating clot, temporarily blocking the blood supply.

The effect of any type of stroke (also known as brain attack) is debilitating - restricted blood flow alters or stops the functions of that specific part of the brain, sometimes leading to paralysis.

A 2017 survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) found that Indians are at a higher risk of developing strokes compared with people living in the US. It also mentioned that there are 105-152 cases of stroke per 100,000 Indians. Every minute, three Indians suffer a stroke.

With such a high prevalence, it helps to know how strokes can be prevented: 

1. Lower your blood pressure: High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke. Blood pressure should always be maintained below 140/90 mm Hg. Reducing your junk food, saturated fat and salt intake is the key. Also, try eating four to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. If you are a non-vegetarian, try eating fish two or three times a week.

2. Reduce obesity: Higher fat content in the body is another risk factor for stroke. Maintaining your weight could prevent the occurrence of diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which increase your risk for a stroke. Try to keep your body mass index (weight to height ratio) below 25. If it is higher than 25, try talking to your doctor and dietician for guidance.

3. Make exercise a daily habit: Exercise is essential for stroke prevention. It ensures good blood flow through the arteries, reducing the risk of clot formation as well as that of other diseases that could be a potential risk factor for stroke. Ideally, 30 minutes of exercise daily is necessary for arterial health. If you can’t make a regular exercise routine, walk for half an hour in the yard after dinner.

4. Limit alcohol consumption: Studies indicate that having one drink a day might decrease the risk but having two increases stroke occurrence. If you can't drink in moderation, it’s better not to drink at all. Red wine is considered to be the best option as it has resveratrol that shows protective action for the brain and heart.

5. Get treated for atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation causes irregular heartbeat which is a major inducer of clot formation - that clot can make its way to the brain and result in a stroke. According to the Harvard Medical Bulletin, atrial fibrillation should be taken very seriously as it increases the risk of stroke by five times. If you feel shortness of breath and palpitations, talk to a cardiologist immediately for risk analysis and further treatment.

6. Control your diabetes: High blood sugar negatively affects blood vessels by setting up a favourable environment for clot formation. India today has the second-highest number of diabetic people (after China).

7. Quit smoking: Smoking makes the blood thicker and induces plaque formation in the arterial walls - it increases stroke probability.

The key to recognising a stroke F.A.S.T

The US-based National Stroke Association came up with an easy way to recognise a stroke - F.A.S.T.

F: does one side of your "Face" droop when you smile

A: do you have difficulty lifting your "Arms"

S: do you notice a slur in your "Speech"

T: if you notice any of these signs in yourself or anyone else, it's "Time" to call emergency.

Some other signs of a stroke could be:

  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Numbness of the face
  • Severe headache
  • Loss of vision
  • Numbness and tingling sensation all over the body
  • Change in gait

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Stroke: Causes, Early Signs, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention.

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