DUBAI, Ahead of World Stroke Day, which is on the 29th October every year, a Dubai Health Authority, DHA, neurologist discussed the importance of lifestyle measures and the need to be aware on how to minimise brain damage in case of a stroke by acting quickly.
“When it comes to a stroke, every second counts. Two million brain cells die every minute until blood flow is restored and these cells may not be re-generated. What this means is that time is essential to minimise brain damage caused by strokes,” says Dr. Suhail AlRukn, stroke and neurology consultant and head of the Stroke Unit at Rashid Hospital.
The DHA stroke unit was established in 2013 and was the only unit in the world outside Germany to receive the German stroke accreditation. The unit provides 24/7 comprehensive stroke management and intervention and has expanded from four beds to 10 beds only dedicated to stroke patients.
About one in four people worldwide have a stroke the world’s number two killer and a leading cause of disability. In the UAE, approximately 8,000 to 10,000 patients suffer a stroke per year. However, the good news is that up to 80 per cent of cases may be prevented according to Dr. AlRukn.
He said, “Strokes occur suddenly and the damage takes place very quickly, and the longer it takes a person to get medical assistance, the more the brain damage. An adult brain has a total of five to six billion brain cells and when a stroke occurs brain cells start to die. Approximately two million brain cells die per minute in a stroke case. Therefore, the level of disability can be quite severe as the effects of a stroke on the body are immediate.”
Fifty per cent of the stroke patients in the UAE are below the age of 45 years, as compared to the global average, where 80 per cent of stroke patients are above the age of 65 years, he stated pointing out the need for urgent lifestyle changes.
AlRukn emphasised that a sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, dependence on fatty foods and a diet high in salts are some of the main culprits that can lead to a stroke. “In the UAE, 18 to 20 per cent of the population is overweight, and 20 per cent of the population is diabetic. Moreover, high salt consumption is a major issue. The average amount of salt needed daily in 1.4 grams, however, the average amount of salt people in the UAE consume per day is 5 grams which is way above the required limit.”
According to the latest data by the World Health Organisation, WHO, in upper-middle-income countries, stroke is the leading cause of death, followed by cardiac diseases.
In the UAE, stroke is the second leading cause of disability, after road accidents. Annually 8,000 to 10,000 patients in the UAE suffer from stroke; this means every hour, one person has a stroke. “Internationally the number is 150 to 200 cases per 100,000 so we are within the international range. However, unfortunately in the UAE, stroke patients are much younger than those in western countries,” AlRukn added.
He cautioned people to be aware of risk factors, conduct yearly health screenings and asked those with one or more risk factors to opt for the stroke risk calculator test, which tabulates the likelihood of a person getting a stroke in the next ten years.
Risk factors include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, and heart disease, and previous stroke, age: above 55 years.
Dr. AlRukn said there is a simple process that can help family members identify if a person is having a stroke. “It is called the FAST test, and the details are as follows: Face: check whether the person’s face has fallen to one side and whether the person can smile or not. Arms: Can the person raise both arms or not? Speech: Can the person speak or is the speech slurred? Lastly, Time: If any of the three signs are visible, it is important to call the ambulance right away.”
He advised that the first four and a half hours after the person gets a stroke are the most crucial for doctors to minimise the damage to the brain and thus getting to a hospital on time is crucial. Ideally, the patient should be taken to the hospital as soon as the symptoms are recognised, within the first three hours.
He adds that people above the age of 30 should check their blood pressure every year and that there is a strong link between hypertension and stroke.
Source: Emirates News Agency