Stroke the greatest burden. Understand how to stop it?
Sitting in my OPD a few days back with limited number of patients due to COVID lock down, I have been spending more time chatting with my patients and their families, discussing about a lot of things, related to their disease, burden on family due to illness and sometimes social issues. It gives you a new perspective to diseases, the problems patients face and issues faced by family which they are not able to discuss most of the time. In India, we do not have the luxury of spending a lot of time on counselling patients and their families. Doctors discuss pressing issues related to disease, prescribe medicines, advise tests if required and explains dos and donts.
Naveen had stroke around 6 months back, it came like a bolt from the sky, a 40 year old businessman who used to export shoes, life running from home to his shoe factory and back, spending some time with his kids, running after making ends meet and having no time to run to amend his belly. He was otherwise a jovial person without any bad habits. And he had stroke. No initial signs, no pain, no breathlessness and sitting in his office he could not speak and move one half of his body. He was rushed to hospital and received timely treatment and over a month was able to resume all his activities with same vigor but with some time to improve his lifestyle.
Every thing was almost right with him but why did he have Stroke? I was asked this question by his wife recently, what wrong did he do to have stroke at such a young age, “I have heard that paralysis usually occurs at older age but he is so young and active, then how can he suffer from such a devastating disease.” I knew the answers but they usually do not satisfy a curious family member who has faced a very rough time with the most disabling disease.
Let’s try to find some answers:
What is Stroke ?
Stroke or paralysis occurs when a part of brain stops getting blood supply or there is a bleeding in brain. That part of brain stops working and this leads to weakness of a part of body, change of speech, inability to walk properly, distortion of face, at times decreased vision and many other symptoms.
Stroke occurs in around 300-400 people for every 100,000 population. It is one of the leading causes of disability which leads to limitation of activity, burden on family and loss of livelihood. Stroke can occur at any age, even children can have stroke, however, causes in children may be different.
How to STOP Stroke?
Lifestyle Modification: A healthy lifestyle is key to holistic wellbeing. 40 minutes of brisk exercise or walking at least 5 times a week is recommended by most of the medical associations.
Simple measures like pacing around in office, reducing your time sitting on chair, taking stairs instead of lift, walking to nearby shops for groceries are few simple steps which will make you more active in your life. However, these should not replace your regular dose of exercise.
A healthy diet: High salt intake is associated with high BP and BP is one of the causes of stroke. Salt is present in a lot of food stuff which we consume very frequently. Sauces, papads, pickles, chutneys, processed foods, preserved foods have high salt content and should be avoided. Stop using salt on salads, fruits and try to reduce the amount of salt in daily food preparations also.
High cholesterol is a cause of stroke and heart disease. Fat is deposited in arteries which get blocked and lead to stroke and heart attacks. Reduce use of all sorts of oils, ghee, butter, cheese, mayonnaise, margarine, creams in your diet. Avoid having fast food which is usually loaded with cheese. There is some benefit of using PUFA oils but even their excess use can be harmful.
Detect and control your Diabetes: Diabetes patients are at very high risk of stroke. A regular screening of Blood Sugar or HbA1C levels should be done in each and every adult. If there is family history of diabetes, then testing should be frequent. If a person is diagnosed to have diabetes, he should control it in a very strict manner with regular medications and dietary restrictions.
Stress and Anger management: A healthy body is a home to peaceful mind and a peaceful mind can keep you healthy. Any form of stress takes a toll on our wellbeing. It reduces our efficiency, affects our behavior and alters perception of our surroundings. Meditation, Reiki, Dhyaan are all techniques of mind relaxation and should be practiced as per a persons choice.
Heart Disease: A number of heart disease are associated with stroke. Atrial fibrillation a disorder of hearty rhythm in which heart rate becomes irregular is a very common cause of stroke and can be seen in young patients also. If a person with heart ailment is found to have atrial fibrillation, he should ask his cardiologist about specific treatment so that he does not have stroke. Other heart disease in which there is problem with valves of heart can also lead to stroke.
Regular Treatment: Once a patient suffers from stroke, he may require some medications for a long period of time or possibly lifelong. A number of patients stop their treatment once they improve, they become complacent and stop worrying about being sick. However, this is not advisable and regular treatment and follow up with doctor is always required.
Stroke doesn’t discriminate between young and old, rich or poor, however, it can be avoided if we take adequate precautions, inculcate a structured plan in our lifestyle which will help us to remain healthy, and remain free of stroke, heart disease and may other diseases.
We can learn what to do to avoid Stroke and spread our knowledge to others to reduce stroke.
Dr. Kapil K Singhal
Senior Consultant and Clinical Coordinator
Metro Center for Neuroscience