October 22, 2021 4 min read
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and adult disability globally. In Singapore, it is the 4th most common cause of death, accounting for more than 10% of the total deaths.
Worryingly, there is growing evidence that the Covid-19 infection increases an individual's risk of stroke, even for younger people and those with no other stroke risk factors.
However, stroke does not have to be deadly. Having the knowledge on how to spot symptoms and knowing what actions to take can help to save lives and improve recovery.
Stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted, causing oxygen starvation, brain damage and loss of function.
Depending on the extent and location of the damage as well as how quickly it is treated, the severity of the stroke varies from minimal to catastrophic. Stroke can cause wide-ranging disabilities from mobility to speech, comprehension and memory impairments.
There are 2 main types of stroke:
Accounting for 79.9% of all stroke cases in Singapore, ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when there is an obstruction in the blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.
Blood vessels can be blocked due to fatty deposits in blood vessels and arteries, causing the formation of blood clots (cerebral thrombosis). Alternatively, blood clots can also form at other parts of the body. When a portion of such blood clots break loose and enter the bloodstreams of the brain, they may cause blockage at the vessels that are too small (cerebral embolism). The main cause of such clots are irregular heartbeat.
Accounting for 20% of all stroke cases in Singapore, stroke can also be caused by hemorrhage when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, causing blood to leak into the brain. When the blood builds up, it causes pressure on the surrounding brain tissue. Such ruptures are caused by aneurysms or an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation) which is a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels.
Speed is key when stroke happens. Having fast access to treatment can significantly reduce its impact, minimising the damage to the brain, increasing available treatment options and even reducing the risk of death and disability. Therefore, one useful way to remember the common symptoms is to act FAST.
Although there are some risk factors that are uncontrollable such as age and family history, up to 80% of strokes are preventable if we modify our lifestyle habits.
Check your blood pressure regularly
Despite affecting about half of people in the world, they are often left untreated because of the lack of symptoms. Taking the extra effort to take your blood pressure at least once every 3 years and seeking advice from a health professional can significantly reduce your stroke risk.
Not only does staying active help us to lose weight, it also reduces the risk of developing health conditions that are also risk factors of stroke. Having 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can reduce your risk of stroke by 25%. Start by going on walks, or choosing to take the stairs instead of escalators when commuting.
Adopt a healthy diet
Making small dietary changes can make a big difference to reducing your risk. The best diet for stroke prevention is following a Mediterranean Diet that is mostly plant-based with small amounts of meat and fish.
Smoking tobacco significantly increases the risk of stroke for themselves and the people around them.
Limit your alcohol intake
Regular consumption of alcohol and even a ‘one-off’ overconsumption can increase your risk of stroke. Drink in moderation or not at all.
Stay in touch with your mental health
Depression and stress increases one’s stroke risk by almost 2 times. It is important to set aside time for self-care and learn to manage your stress levels.
Existing health conditions
Safety always comes first, especially for stroke patients who may be suffering from physical and cognitive limitations. To assist recovery, it is important to equip your homes and provide them with assistive devices. Here are some products you can consider:
Quad canes can be used to provide extra stability for the body when walking both indoor and outdoors.
For patients who suffer from greater mobility limitations, investing in pushchairs such as our HappyWheels Easy Chair Lightweight Pushchair would be very useful, especially for hospital visits.
If recovery is taking place in the home, then certain home modifications must be taken to ensure safe rehabilitation. For a full guide on how to fall-proof your homes, check out our Ultimate Guide To Fall Prevention.
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