How to avoid a stroke
By Moomal Shunaid
KARACHI: About 70 percent of Pakistan’s population suffers from high blood pressure, said Aga Khan University Hospital, Assistant Professor and Consultant Neurologist Dr Saad Shafqat at a press conference here on Tuesday.
The Collaborative Group for Prevention of Stroke, which organised the conference, is a multidisciplinary forum that brings together specialists of the country to raise awareness about ways of preventing stroke, such as controlling high blood pressure and proper management of risk factors like dyslipidemia, diabetes and smoking.
Dr Shafqat explained, “A stroke causes organs to cease functioning, for example in some cases a person is unable to talk. Strokes are triggered by two reasons, brain haemorrhage and brain infarction. “High blood pressure, diabetes, use of tobacco, and high cholesterol are key factors that contribute to the onset of stroke. Strokes are more common among men and the elderly,” he said.
The doctors said strokes are caused by blocked blood vessels in the neck and brain due to excessive hypertension and brain haemorrhage. The warning signs of a stroke are usually, numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, confusion in speaking, trouble seeing with one or both eyes, trouble in walking, dizziness and loss of balance.
The doctors said one of the new medicines available for stroke is TPA. The only catch is that it needs to be administered within three hours of the stroke, and can prove to be dangerous if taken later. Unfortunately, one dose of TPA costs Rs 95,000 so not many can afford it. “All is not lost as blood thinning medicines like aspirin can also be used to avoid a stroke,” Dr Shafqat added.
He highlighted the popular misconception, especially in rural areas, that eating pigeon meat or smearing pigeon blood on affected areas can cure stroke disabilities. “This is ridiculous and unreasonable. Instead of trying to treat this medical condition with homemade remedies the person concerned should immediately consult qualified doctors. Rehabilitation treatments like physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy help stroke patients recover quickly.”
“Blood pressure usually strikes people over 45 in Pakistan because they don’t monitor their sugar levels and blood pressure regularly. If a person is overweight, he is not much bothered about his condition. Prevention is better than cure. Exercise is very important. Arterial hypertension is a silent killer like diabetes. Regulated blood pressure will greatly reduce the risk of stroke,” said Dr Shahid Mahmood and Memorial Hospital Consultant Physician Hameed Latif.
They said stroke is the second cause of death affecting five million people worldwide. He said if blood pressure is normal the risk of stroke is reduced by 88 percent. As a leading cause of disability, strokes leave three-quarters of people unable to work. A third of people need help caring for themselves, a fifth need help walking and a sixth need to be institutionalised, he said.
Dr Shafqat also said that a quarter of people do not survive a month after the event because of massive stroke and 60 percent do not fully recover within the first year of the attack. Statistics showed that one year after stroke attacks, 33 percent are dead, 22 percent persons are dependent and 45 percent persons are independent.
After suffering a stroke attack, the chances of a recurrence are very high.
Dr Shahid said, “Major drugs used to control blood pressure are diuretics, beta blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers(ARBS). Diuretics and Beta Blockers are the most widely used medication for blood pressure. Atenolol is the widely prescribed beta-blocker. But for a stroke attack, Cozaar is the best. With the help of this medicine stroke attacks have been reduced by 24 percent.”
Mr Lehri, a famous comedian present at the briefing was asked to describe when he had his first stroke and how he deals with it now? “It was 15 years ago when I got the stroke while shooting in Bangkok. I was tense in those days. I had always smoked, and was suffering from sugar. The bathroom was the only place where I didn’t smoke. I quit smoking after the stroke. As for my blood pressure I never knew such a thing existed. Of course I was very active before the stroke and now I have to keep a strict check on my health.”
Mr Lehri also said people should avoid smoking and adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to avert health complications later in life.