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What is stroke?

A stroke is a “brain attack” and can happen to anyone, at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as speech, sight, memory and muscle power are lost.

Symptoms of stroke

Common stroke symptoms include: sudden weakness of the face, arm, or leg; sudden confusion; trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble walking, sudden blindness; loss of balance; and sudden severe headache. The ability to recognize these symptoms and seek medical attention immediately is critical to surviving a stroke and minimizing long-term disability.

What to do?

Stroke happens suddenly in most cases! In some situations, it can resolve itself. We call this a minor stroke. However, it is anything but minor. This transient ischemic attack is a harbinger or a warning sign of a bigger stroke that is on the way!

If you recognise that someone is having a stroke, you must take them to a hospital immediately. Not to a church or mosque or to the village. Stroke is not caused by witchcraft or the devil. It is as discussed above and the brain damage can be reversed by doctors if the patient comes as soon as the stroke starts. Please present within 3 to 4 hours of sudden weakness of the face, sudden weakness of the arm or leg, sudden blindness, sudden difficulty with speech, sudden severe headaches or even sudden collapse.

Risk factors of stroke

Stroke affects people of all ages: even children. Stroke runs in families but hypertension is the single most important risk factor for stroke in Nigeria. The other risk factors that put individuals at higher risk include diabetes, high cholesterol levels, obesity, tobacco use, smoking and physical inactivity.

However, hypertension is the major cause of strokes in Nigeria.

Life style changes

Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are truly bad for you. Obesity makes it harder for the heart to pump blood round the body and the stress on the heart can cause hypertension. Large lumps of fat around the middle, bottom and stomach areas can predispose to strokes and heart attacks. Understanding the risks involved with certain lifestyle choices and making healthier choices, can often help reduce a person’s risk of stroke.

Stroke prevention

You know you want to live long: without paralysis, unable to speak and being fed through a tube. A burden on the family and a drain on the resources of the nation! From the foregoing, you realise that it is best to actively prevent strokes in you and the family. Stroke prevention is easy. You need to lose the fat through exercise, dancing, walking or running. Your friends may laugh at you and wonder why you are out walking but you will laugh last. Also, check your blood pressure regularly and control your blood sugar.

World Stroke Day

World Stroke Day (WSD) is a time to raise awareness for the devastating impact, causes, and symptoms of stroke. Nigerians need to understand that stroke is treatable and preventable, as long as we arm them with the proper diagnostic tools and health information. Everyone must know the root causes of stroke such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

High blood pressure or hypertension is the biggest underlying cause of stroke in Nigeria. Many people do not know they have high blood pressure because they have not checked. We need to change this. Others who have been diagnosed stop taking medications for various reasons. Some because their pastor said they were cured at the last retreat. You need to know that hypertension is not cured but is controlled by diet or drugs: for life!

The theme for this years’ WSD is ‘STROKE IS TREATABLE’. Stroke is happening at an increasing rate in young people in Nigeria. We are now seeing increasing numbers of stroke victims in their early 20’s. Children also suffer from stroke but mostly those with sickle cell disease. We need to increase the recognition, awareness, advocacy and access to stroke care. This will help in decreasing the burden of stroke.

World Stroke Day in Abuja

Therefore, please join us in recognizing October 29th as World Stroke Day in order to continue to educate Nigerians about stroke symptoms, prevention, and treatment. This year, the event is actively supported by the Federal Ministry of Health. There will be a press conference at the conference hall of the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government starting at 10 am. This is actually on Friday the 28th October. Lectures and more information on stroke will take place after the press conference.

On the 29th October, the celebration will be a 4km WALK/RUN through the Millennium Park. Please call 08122221616 for more information and meeting points.

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