KARACHI: Expressing concern over the growing number of stroke cases in Pakistan, experts at a press conference held on Thursday stated that the situation in the country was so worrisome that the government should immediately initiate a national health programme for stroke prevention and set up facilities at all tertiary care hospitals for its care and management.

The event was organised in connection with World Brain Day, which is observed every year on July 22.

The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘brain health for all’.

“An estimated 400 people die of stroke every day in Pakistan while another 1,000 suffer from paralysis. Yet, this serious life-threatening condition fails to attract due state attention,” seasoned neurologist Dr Muhammad Wasay told the gathering.

Highlighting its risk factors, he said it included high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco consumption and high cholesterol. “We come across many patients that have all the four major risk factors. Unfortunately, in our society, people don’t value health. They think that it’s a given thing and make no effort to improve their quality of life.”

According to Dr Wasay, one third of our 40 per cent population has high blood pressure while 10m people live with diabetes.

The diseases often go undiagnosed as people generally don’t get their blood pressure and sugar levels tested even once in a year.

“It is highly recommended that people must have their blood pressure and sugar levels checked at least once in a year when they hit 40 years of age,” he suggested, adding that consumption of tobacco and gutka were all hazardous for health.

Speakers at the event regretted that disease prevention was neither in the government list of priorities nor a popular concept with citizens.

Dr Abdul Malik pointed to an acute shortage of neurologists in the country and said presently there was one neurologist available for a population of one million while the WHO guidelines suggested one neurologist for 1,000 people.

Prevention

Simple diet, regular walk and exercise, tobacco avoidance, they pointed out, could help prevent stroke.

In this respect, they referred to WHO’s 10-year programme for advocacy and inter-sectoral intervention for promotion of brain health which was being actively pursued by member countries and needed to be implemented in Pakistan.

Air pollution factor

Speaking about the connection between air pollution and brain health, Dr Nadir Ali of Pakistan Parkinson’s Society said air pollution had become a major source of concern across the world and studies had also linked it with several neurological illnesses.

“But, the government seems to be oblivious of this situation as we see that no effective measures are being taken to address the problem,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2022

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