I know it’s not flashing as breaking news on any of the news channels, but it’s a fact that hasn’t changed over last week or the several weeks before that.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people die of stroke in India each day. Mind you, these numbers don’t include deaths due to heart attacks. Stroke is always a brain attack, though the term is incorrectly used for a heart attack too.
How I know so much is because I had a stroke on July 24 this year.
I was one of the five fortunate people out of the 80 who landed at Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Andheri within three hours of the attack.
Getting treated within three hours — also termed the “golden hour” — lowers risk of stroke-related disabilities and death.
Brain under attack
A stroke or “brain attack” occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood in a vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting supply to the brain cells.
This causes brain cells to die, leading to the person losing abilities that are controlled by that area of the brain, such as speech, movement or memory.
The specific abilities lost or affected depend on the location of blockage and the extent of brain cell death.
For example, a small stroke causes only minor side effects such as weakness of an arm or leg, while a large stroke can paralyse for life.
Risk factors for stroke are similar to that for heart disease and include a previous transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini stroke that may last for a few seconds to minutes), uncontrolled diabetes, smoking, heart disease, inactivity, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Most patients, however, don’t know this.
“Unlike heart patients, nine in 10 stroke patients are not aware that medicines and lifestyle change can help combat the disease. Most patients drop out from treatment because of the painless symptom,” said Dr Shirish Hastak, senior neurologist, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.
One such person was artist Avinash Godbole (62), who ignored symptoms of his first stoke 7 years ago.
He says it was his life’s biggest mistake.
“The moment I got the stroke I should have gone to a hospital. The mistake cost me the use of my right arm and leg,” said Godbole, who now paints with his left hand.
He’s done a series of 22 canvases called ‘Confessions’ to spread stroke awareness.
Every minute lost in getting treatment increases the chances of stroke-related disabilities and death.
“Most stroke patients reach hospitals more than 24 hours after experiencing symptoms, when clot-busting drugs need to be administered within three hours of the first signs,” said Dr Hastak.