Word of caution: 10 risk factors trigger 90% strokes

  • Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: May 06, 2014 00:04 IST

In today's world, where stress is possibly the most dominant factor in everyone's lives, the probability of a stroke is also on a rise. If we dig deeper, ten modifiable risk factors associated with about 90% of strokes – the condition in which brain cells get damaged or die rapidly when they are suddenly starved of oxygen due to blockage or rupture of a blood vessel – come to light.

Just controlling these risk factors – hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity, abdominal obesity, heart disease, unhealthy diet, alcohol use, diabetes and psychosocial stressors – can help save people from disability and death, reveals the INTERSTROKE study, which included 27,000 patients from 32 countries across the world. The preliminary findings were presented for the first time at the World Congress of Cardiology in Melbourne on Monday.

Of these, hypertension – chronic blood pressure reading over 140/90 mmHg or higher – is the key risk factor.

Worldwide, stroke causes 6.15 million deaths (10.8% of all deaths); with 87% of stroke deaths occurring in low and middle income countries. It is the second leading cause of disability, after dementia.

Globally, stroke is the second leading cause of death above the age of 60 years, and the fifth leading cause of death in people aged between 15 and 59 years.

In many developed countries, the incidence of stroke is declining even though the actual number is increasing because of the ageing population. In developing countries, the incidence stroke is increasing.

"Due to a rapid rise in the proportion of people with high blood pressure, diabetes and dyslipidemia (high blood fats such as cholesterol), and the relative lack of exercise among the general population, strokes in India are projected to go over 1 million per year," writes Dr Man Mohan Mehndiratta, director of Neurology at GB Pant Hospital, in the international journal Neurology.

"In India, the incidence is 160-200 strokes/1 lakh population, and the numbers are expected to rise with people living longer and developing risk factors at a younger age," says Dr Pushpendra Renjen, consultant neurologist, Indrapastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.

Stroke is less common in people under 40 years, although it does happen. In young people, the most common causes for stroke are high blood pressure and sickle cell disease.

Signs of stroke
• Sudden tingling, numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Trouble speaking or understanding
• Vision problems in one or both eyes
• Difficulty walking, loss of balance
• Dizziness
• Sudden amnesia, mental impairment

How to confirm a stroke
• Smile: The face should move symmetrically.
• Raise both arms: Look for weakness on one side of the body.
• Speak a simple sentence: Speech should be clear and coherent.

First aid at home
• While waiting for medical attention, make sure the affected person lies flat for optimal blood flow to the brain.
• If drowsiness, unresponsiveness or nausea is present, turn him on his side to prevent choking on vomit.
• So not give aspirin as because if the stroke is of the bleeding type, aspirin could make matters worse or the patient.


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