According to the World Stroke Organization (WSO), somebody suffers from a stroke every two seconds, and somebody dies from it every six seconds. It is said to be deadlier than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
A stroke, also known as brain attack, is a condition where the brain is damaged either due to the deprivation of blood flow or a ruptured blood vessel.
The WSO is the world’s leading organization in the fight against stroke. It was established in October 2006 through the merger of the International Stroke Society and the World Stroke Federation with the purpose of creating one world voice for stroke.
In the Philippines stroke is the second-leading cause of death and the No. 1 cause of disability according to the Stroke Society of the Philippines and the Department of Health (DOH). Most of the stroke incidents happen in low- to middle-income countries like the Philippines.
“One in six will have a stroke in their lifetime, hence it is important that we know what are the risk factors for stroke so that we can avoid them or try to minimize their impact on our health,” says Dr. John Jerusalem A. Tiongson, a neurologist from premier health institution The Medical City.
Dr. Tiongson enumerates the six steps in curbing your risk of stroke from the WSO.
“It is important to know your personal risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes and high blood cholesterol. These three have been known to increase your risk of stroke significantly,” Dr. Tiongson says. Therefore, it is important to have a regular checkup and follow your doctor’s advice especially on your maintenance medications.
“Furthermore, if you have palpitations, or if you feel your heartbeat skips once in a while, it is best to see your physician to rule out atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormal heart rhythm that increases your risk of stroke. Patients who have previous heart attacks must be assessed for stroke risk as well,” Dr. Tiongson adds.
Be physically active and exercise regularly. Tiongson points out that it is not the intensity of the exercise that is important but its regularity. It does not necessarily mean enrolling in a gym. Walking fast around your neighborhood for 45 minutes every day should do the trick.
Maintain a healthy diet, with high intake of fruits and vegetables and low in salt to stay healthy and keep your blood pressure low. “When we eat, half of our plates must be occupied by fruits and vegetables. And, since we are a “salt-loving” nation, we must cut down on our patis, toyo, and bagoong,” says Dr. Tiongson.
If you drink, it’s important to limit alcohol consumption to two glasses of wine, two bottles of beer or two shots of hard drinks. But, if you don’t drink alcohol, it is best not to start.
Another important rule is, avoid cigarette smoke. Of all vices, cigarette smoking has the worst effect on your health, especially stroke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now. Health institutions such as The Medical City, have a smoking-cessation program. Inquire about this to minimize your risk of stroke and other health problems that can be aggravated by smoking.
“And lastly, we all should learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke because the earlier we intervene, the less disability it will cause,” Dr. Tiongson says. Most hospitals now have stroke teams and stroke units that have the capacity to give medications that can potentially decrease stroke disability. However, there is a golden time window of 4 ½ hours for the stroke team to give this medication.
Therefore, if you or your loved one has signs and symptoms of stroke, go to the hospital immediately. But remember, the nearest hospital might not be the best one. Ask if the hospital has a stroke team and a stroke unit that has been proven to decrease morbidity and mortality from stroke,” Tiongson adds.
In order to remember the stroke warning signs, always remember FAST which stands for face, arms, speech and time to act. According to the World Stroke Organization, we need to check the following:
- “Face—Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
- Arms—Can they lift both arms?
- Speech—Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
- Time—Is critical. If you notice any of these warning signs, act FAST. Call your local emergency medical services or get to the hospital immediately. Think FAST. Act fast. Stroke is a medical emergency.
The Medical City Department of Neurology
The Medical City Department of Neurology offers specialized neurological services through its Acute Stroke Unit (Acsu) and Neurologic Intensive Care Unit (Nicu).
Acute cerebrovascular disorders are referred to TMC’s Brain Attack Team for assessment and administration of thrombolysis, if warranted, for patients arriving within the golden time window of 4 ½ hours at the emergency room or coil and clip aneurysms at the soonest possible time.
The Brain Attack Team is composed of a neurosurgeon and neurosurgery resident, neuroradiologist, neurology consultant, neurology resident, physiatrist and the stroke nurse. The entire team undergoes regular training in stroke assessment and management.
Patients are monitored in the state-of-the-art eight-bed joint Acsu and Nicu by National Institutes of Health-certified stroke nurses and neurology staff. It is also in this unit where other acute neurological conditions such as status epilepticus, meningitis, and postoperative neurosurgical cases, among others, are closely monitored and managed.
For inquiries about stroke and other neurological conditions, you may call the Department of Neurology at 988-1000 ext. 6270 or visit www.themedicalcity.com.