ISLAMABAD: Around 17 million people suffer strokes every year around the world, of which 6m do not survive, participants at an event held to mark World Brain Day were informed on Saturday.

They were told that one in six people in the world suffers a stroke once in a lifetime.

World Brain Day is observed globally, and the event in Islamabad was organised by the Pakistan Society of Neurology and the Pakistan Stroke Society.

Event held to mark World Brain Day aims to raise awareness about prevention, detection of strokes

In Pakistan, people on average suffer strokes 10 years earlier than the average age for strokes – 60 years – in developed countries. Every year, 350,000 cases of strokes are reported in Pakistan.

Dr Mazhar Badshah, the head of the neurology department at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, said a large proportion of strokes are avoidable. He said there are 10 influenceable risk factors that are responsible for 91pc of all strokes.

“These are high blood pressure, physical inactivity, an unfavourable situation of blood lipids, poor diet, a high waist-to-hip ration, psychosocial factors, smoking, high alcohol intake, cardiac disease and diabetes,” he said.

Dr Badshah said high blood pressure was the single largest risk factor for strokes and hypertension, and is behind nearly 50pc of all strokes. It can also increase the risk of intracerebral haemorrhage, which often leads to particularly severe disabilities.

He said there is potential to add 100m healthy years worldwide, solely from effective strategies designed to reduce strokes, adding that experts are also pushing for the introduction of a global ban on smoking to address the issue.

Pakistan Society of Neurology President Prof Dr Arsalan Ahmad said there are few other diseases for which treatment options have improved so radically over the past decade and a half. “Today we can finally say that strokes are treatable,” he said.

Consultant stroke neurologist Dr Sahrish Aieshah said treatment and prevention of strokes must be the highest priority of healthcare policy in every country, and all hospitals need to be equipped with specialist stroke units and medicine for basic thrombolysis treatment needs to be made available.

Senior consultant neurologist Dr Mohammad Tariq said alongside prevention, awareness also needs to be raised about how to detect and respond correctly in an emergency.

“Almost 70 percent of patients fail to identify transient ischemic attacks and even mild strokes. Even when symptoms are identifiable, almost one in three people do not seek immediate help. Reducing the amount of time between initial symptoms and receiving treatment is very important because it can save many sufferers from severe disability,” he said.

He said there is a simple ‘FAST’ guideline to identify patients of strokes, and suggested people with a non-medical background also follow it.

“F means face drooping, so people should ask patients to smile and see if one side of their face droops. A means arm weakness – patients should be asked to raise both arms and a stroke patient’s one arm will drift downward. S stands for speech difficulty, so a patient should be asked to repeat a simple sentence. T stands for time to call an ambulance, so if a patient shows any of these symptoms, an ambulance should be called,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2017

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