Are you at risk of a stroke?

Are you monitoring your blood pressure or having it checked at least once year?

It's such a simple test and yet many do not take the effort to know their blood pressure or even find out if they have atrial fibrillation which encourages the formation of blood clots that could cause a stroke.

Prince Court Medical Centre (PCMC) consultant neurologist Dr Julia Shahnaz says: "With today's unhealthy lifestyles and numerous health issues such as high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol abuse, it is hardly shocking that stroke has become the leading cause of serious disability, sparing no age, gender, ethnic origin or country."

She adds that a passive attitude is no longer justifiable as stroke can be potentially prevented to a large extent and much can be done for stroke patients. Families can help patients to reduce the long term consequences of the disease.

According to the National Stroke Association, in addition to monitoring blood pressure, the best ways to prevent strokes are:

  • If you smoke, stop
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
  • Find out if you have high cholesterol
  • If you have diabetes, take measures to control the condition
  • Include exercise in your daily routine to avoid being obese
  • Eat a low-salt diet
  • Ask your physician if you have circulation problems that can increase the risk of stroke and if you experience any stroke symptoms, including sudden weakness of the face or a limb, a blurring of vision, dizziness, or an intense headache, seek immediate medical attention.

One in six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime and every six seconds someone in the world dies of this condition. "With committed care and a multi-disciplinary support team in a health facility, stroke survivors can recover and regain their quality of life," says Dr Julia.

Stroke is the second leading cause of death for people above the age of 60, and the fifth leading cause in people aged 15 to 59. Stroke also attacks children, including newborns. Each year, nearly six million people die from stroke.

In fact, stroke is responsible for more deaths every year than those attributed to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria put together - three diseases which have set the benchmark for successful public health advocacy, capturing the attention of the world's media and which consequently has provoked world leaders, governments and many sectors of civil society to act.