Stroke – Are you at risk of a brain attack?
With 28 October to 3 November being World Stroke Week and 29 October being World Stroke Day, ER24 is urging people to educate themselves about the condition. Stroke is a common and serious condition affecting millions of people around the globe. A stroke, which could lead to death or disability, occurs when blood flow to parts of the brain is cut off. There are two types of stroke. The most common is the ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to part of the brain becomes blocked by a blood clot. The blood clot could either form in an artery in the brain or travel to the brain through a blood vessel from another part of the body. The second less common but more likely fatal type of stroke is the hemorrhagic stroke which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or bursts/ruptures causing bleeding. Recognising the signs of a stroke early and seeking urgent medical assistance are of utmost importance as it increases the person’s chances of survival and recovery. If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, conduct the FAST test. The FAST test entails the following:
- Face – Is one side of the person’s face drooping? The person should smile or show their teeth. If one side is drooping, they could be having a stroke.
- Arm – The person should keep their arms raised for a few seconds. If one arm drifts down or is weak, they could be having a stroke.
- Speech – The person should try to speak. If there is slurring or if the person struggles to understand or repeat any sentence, they could be having a stroke.
- Time – If the person experiences any of the above, call emergency services immediately.
Immediate and appropriate care can improve a patient’s outcome. Strokes can be reversed if treated before the affected brain tissue dies. Risk factors There are a number of risk factors that increase a person’s chance of having a stroke. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the leading cause of strokes (and heart attacks) in South Africa. Hence, it is vital that you get your blood pressure measured regularly. Risk factors for stroke also include diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, heart disease and stress. It is vital that people live a healthier lifestyle to reduce chances of having a stroke. Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, making the right food choices (such as reducing salt and sugar intake), and including moderate exercise into your daily routine, can make a positive difference.