LAHORE - Like other parts of the globe, World Stroke Day will be observed across the country on Tuesday (today) to underscore the serious nature and high rates of stroke, raise awareness of the prevention and treatment of the condition, and ensure better care and support for survivors.

A stroke can happen to anyone, at anytime and anywhere.

Symposiums, walks and screening camps will be arranged by public sector and private institutions to highlight the importance of regular screening and raise awareness about preventive measures to avoid leading cause of disability worldwide and the second leading cause of death. “Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide, affecting 15 million people each year and one in every four individuals is believed to experience a stroke in their lifetime. Almost all strokes could be prevented,” said leading cardiologists.

1 in every 4 adults has a stroke in life

People with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a condition of irregular and often rapid heart rate, are five times more likely to have a stroke. Dr Riffat Sultana, Consultant and Associate Professor of Cardiology, Karachi Institute of Heart Diseases said, “People with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) are at an increased risk for stroke and are estimated to account for 15% of the 15 million strokes that occur worldwide every year. It is a common type of irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia. With AFib, a clot can form in the chamber of the heart and can travel to the brain. This can lead to a potentially devastating thromboembolic stroke.”

She further advised that people having risk factors for AFib should be more alarmed. These factors may include age 60 or more, especially 75+, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, previous stroke, transient ischemic heart attack (TIA), or thromboembolism, vascular disease, ischemic heart disease, hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease and enlargement of the chambers on the left side of the heart.

“While stroke is responsible for more deaths annually as compared to AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, it is important to note that the disease can be prevented by keeping a check on blood pressure as high blood pressure is one of the most controllable risk factors for stroke,” indicated Dr Mohammad Wasay, Consultant and Professor of Neurology, Aga Khan University Hospital.

As many as 25% patients die just after the first stroke as proper initial treatment is not given; however, after the first stroke, the first 48 hours remain very crucial for treatment. Moreover, almost 20% people suffering from minor signs can be saved by spreading awareness amongst the masses.

Health experts further urged the media, government and community-based organizations to make conscientious efforts towards stroke awareness by gathering and analyzing patients’ data in Pakistan. According to research, the incidence of stroke in the US is about 200 patients per every 100,000 people, while in Pakistan, it is believed to be close to 250 stroke cases per every 100,000 people. This means that there are 350,000 new stroke patients every year in this country.  “Taking a life every five seconds, worldwide stroke-related illness, disability and early death is set to double in the next 15 years (i.e. by 2035), which is an alarming situation. Therefore, it becomes imperative to design stroke prevention strategies that could curb the increasing incidence of stroke in Pakistan,” opined Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, Consultant Neurologist, Aga Khan University Hospital.