World Stroke Day: Health experts stress early intervention, healthy lifestyle choices to prevent stroke

World Stroke Day’ Health experts stress early intervention, healthy lifestyle choices to prevent stroke
Stroke remains a leading global cause of death, and its prevalence has been on the rise, especially in developing countries, according to doctors.

The medical professionals who spoke with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said that early intervention is crucial in preventing long-term disabilities associated with stroke. They said people must act swiftly at the first sign of a stroke.

Renowned health expert and Medical Superintendent of Khyber Hospital, Dr Showkat Shah, told KNO that the 2023 World Stroke Day theme is "Together we are #Greater Than Stroke."

This theme underscores the importance of preventing risk factors such as hypertension, irregular heartbeat, smoking, and dietary habits, as nearly 90% of strokes can be prevented by addressing these factors, he said.

Dr Shah stressed the importance of time when dealing with a stroke, as every moment counts. He mentioned the "F.A.S.T." acronym to recognise stroke symptoms: Face (drooping), Arms (weakness), Speech (slurred), and Time (to call for emergency help).

“Globally, stroke is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability, affecting around 1.8 million people each year. Low and middle-income countries, including India, have seen a significant increase in stroke cases, while developed countries have witnessed a decline,” he said.

The doctor said preventive measures against stroke include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol intake, engaging in regular physical activity, dietary modifications like reducing sodium, meats, and sweets, and undergoing regular health check-ups. He said early intervention is also vital for preventing long-term disabilities associated with stroke.

Other doctors emphasised the importance of regular exercise, which increases the number of tiny blood vessels delivering oxygen-rich blood to the brain, spurs the development of new nerve cells, and enhances the connections between brain cells. These benefits lead to a more efficient, plastic, and adaptive brain, they said, adding that exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, helps balance blood sugar, and reduces mental stress, benefiting both the brain and heart.

Dr Nisar ul Hassan, a noted doctor and president of the Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), stressed the significance of a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and maintaining a proper weight in stroke prevention.

He said stroke cases have been increasing in the Kashmir Valley, affecting not only the elderly but also young people, largely due to lifestyle factors. “Relying on junk food over homemade meals and adopting sedentary lifestyles have contributed to this trend,” he said.

Dr Nisar urged people to adopt a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, reduce salt intake, and avoid fast food to lower the risk of stroke.

“Increasing awareness about stroke symptoms, including facial drooping, limb weakness, speech difficulty, numbness, confusion, trouble speaking, vision problems, walking difficulties, and severe headaches is essential. Many patients fail to seek timely medical attention due to a lack of awareness, resulting in poor outcomes,” he said.

The DAK president also stressed on prompt treatment, saying early intervention significantly improves survival chances. “Despite the clear benefits of early treatment, only a small percentage of patients receive optimally timed treatment,” he said

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