Stroke can be successfully prevented and treated with lifestyle changes, timely diagnosis and intervention and the right medication

According to researchers, 3 Indians get a stroke every minute. A stroke affects the blood vessels of the brain. But strokes can be prevented and treated successfully.

As we know, a stroke can be sudden. It occurs when blood flow is prevented from reaching the brain. This disruption of blood flow is typically caused by either a blockage or a ruptured blood vessel in the brain – both cases prevent oxygen from feeding the brain tissue and can cause disability or mortality. It can happen to anyone of any age and affects survivors, family and friends, workplaces and communities.

To raise awareness of and take action in the event of stroke around the world, World Stroke Day is globally held every year on October 29th. This year, the Times Network and St. Jude Medical India Pvt. Ltd. (now Abbott) has teamed up with medical experts across the country to spread awareness and consider the leading causes of stroke, symptoms to be aware of, preventative measures and medical technology to help treat the condition.

The prominent medical experts who came together for a deeper discussion on the subject included:

  • Dr. Balbir Singh, Chairman – Cardiac Sciences Pan Max, Max Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi
  • Dr Ranjan Shetty, HOD and Consultant Intervention Cardiologist, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru
  • Dr Prakash Kumar Hazra, Director of Cardiac Cath Lab, AMRI Hospitals, Dhakuria Kolkata
  • Dr Suhas Hardas, Senior Consultant and Interventional Cardiologist, Director, Hardas Heart Care, Pune

India reports up to 18 lakhs of strokes annually and this figure is overwhelming. Dr. Balbir Singh told that stroke is a serious condition and that the numbers are rising. A stroke can be a thrombotic stroke in which a blood clot forms in one of the arteries of the brain and blocks the flow of blood to a part of the brain. Another type is the thromboembolic stroke, in which the blood clot forms elsewhere, usually in the heart and then moves in the bloodstream, clogging a blood vessel leading to the brain. Another type of stroke is caused by a cerebral hemorrhage when there is hemorrhage in the brain, resulting in this condition. And then there are also strokes where there is no visible cause and these are known as cryptogenic strokes. It may be a small blood clot that goes from the heart to the brain, but one is not able to detect how it happened.

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Dr. Ranjan Shetty mentioned that people with hypertension and diabetes are more susceptible to heart attacks. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to stroke even at a younger age, while stroke caused by blood clots usually affects older individuals.

Dr. PK Hazra and Dr. Suhas Hardas shared that over the years, poor lifestyle choices have also been contributing causes of stroke. Smoking, no exercise, obesity, uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes, sleep apnea (snoring at night), use of smokeless tobacco and even COVID-19 have led to increasing incidences of stroke. It is imperative for people to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce stroke in general.

Following the conversation about the pandemic, Dr. commented. Singh that during COVID-19 it has been seen that some people developed abnormal blood clots, formation of blood clots in the lungs, heart and brain, which led to pulmonary embolism. In this situation, blood thinners were beneficial in preventing stroke.

Dr. Hazra further explained that in a non-hemorrhagic stroke, you have ischemia (limited or reduced blood flow) and emboli (obstruction of an artery, usually of a blood clot or air bubble). Circulatory conditions are the most important risk factor for ischemic stroke, as it increases your risk of blood clots or fat deposits, especially in patients who have comorbidities or people with a family history of stroke, or who have had a stroke in the past.

While the panel discussed more about types of strokes and causes, Dr. Hardas need for early diagnosis of the condition. He said that – time is very crucial for a stroke patient. As soon as one begins to experience temporary symptoms such as tingling, numbness, loss of power, speech disorders, difficulty swallowing or any kind of visual symptoms, one should immediately go to the nearest heart center, preferably a tertiary heart center. Dr. Shetty stressed the need for appropriate tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, to be performed, preferably within 30 minutes of the onset of symptoms. If stroke is diagnosed early, there are effective measures to treat a patient as mediated by both Dr. Singh and Dr. Hardas. If the injury is ongoing and a person continues to suffer from ischemia, the loss of brain cells or neurons can lead to a permanent disability, and recovery may be difficult or impossible.

The discussion then went to treatment options in addition to medications and methods of early intervention that prove to be effective when it comes to recovering from a stroke. Dr. Shetty said people with one stroke are prone to subsequent strokes. There is a need to prevent this incident. About 40% of strokes may be from the heart. The blood clot can start from either the left side in case of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) or right side when there is a hole (small flap-like opening between right and left upper chamber) of the heart (atria), also known as Patent Foramen Ovalle (PFO) . Blood clot movement due to atrial fibrillation can be treated with either blood-thinning medication or LAA (left atrial appendage) closure, depending on the patient’s condition. A PFO can be treated with a device called an occluder that is implanted across the hole in the heart and can prevent a recurrence of a stroke.

Dr. Hazra emphasized that although there are various options for medicines and equipment available in the country, the selection of these should be done with caution based on appropriate guidance. There are different guidelines, depending on the severity of the disease and the condition of each patient, to prevent and treat the conditions as well as for effective rehabilitation. Treatment of a stroke is a collaboration between a team of doctors, which includes neurologists, neuroradiologists and cardiologists.

The discussion was in-depth and highlighted the need to educate, train and create awareness among the general public along with paramedics, physicians, general practitioners, the primary care workers and overall health care providers. This is because if a stroke can be identified early, the patient can be handled more efficiently and effectively. Finally, it is important to have a long-term vision, understand the cause through diagnosis & scans, make lifestyle changes, correct and control the condition through medication and timely intervention.

“The information mentioned in this document is for guidance / patient education only and should not be construed as a substitute for Abbott’s advice or recommendations. Please contact your doctor for more information. “

Disclaimer: This article has been produced on behalf of St. Jude Medical India Pvt. Ltd. (now Abbott) by the Mediawire team.


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