Stroke, The Subtle Killer

The Nigeria Stroke Reference Group, an advocacy group on stroke care in Nigeria, says more than 160,000 Nigerians die from stroke every year. A statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by Dr Biodun Ogungbo, an executive member of the group, said stroke was a leading cause of long-term disability and death in Nigeria. “It is more than malaria and HIV

combined and is not truly recognised as a killer,’’ it said.
According to the statement, many of the deaths and disability caused by stroke have oftentimes been ascribed to malaria and witchcraft. “A stroke is a `brain attack’ and can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off and when this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle power are lost. For survivors and their families, the long-term cost, both financial and in terms of quality of life, are often overwhelming,’’ the statement read in part.
It said over two-thirds of survivors must live with chronic conditions, such as paralysis and reduced physical activity, speech problems and the ability to understand speech. The statement said the conditions could impact on an individual’s ability to return to work, return to school, and become a functioning member of society once again. It stressed the need for Nigerians to be sensitised on the subject matter in order to reduce the number of deaths and disabilities recorded as a result of the condition.
“The World Stroke Day is a time to raise awareness for the devastating impact, causes and symptoms of stroke. As our leader, you must ensure Nigerians understand that stroke is treatable and preventable, as long as citizens arm themselves with the proper diagnostic tools and health information. Common stroke symptoms include: sudden weakness of the face, arm, or leg; sudden confusion; trouble speaking or understanding speech and sudden trouble walking or seeing. Others include loss of balance; and sudden, severe headache,’’ it emphasised.
The statement said the ability to recognise the symptoms and seek medical attention immediately was critical to surviving a stroke and minimising long-term disability. The group stressed the need to develop an emergency telephone number for Nigeria and a coordinated ambulance service as well. It also emphasised the need for the establishment of more treatment centres to address the increasing number of stroke patients in the country.
The statement said a brain scan was mandatory and must be performed immediately to see what type of stroke the person has suffered. “Clot bursting drugs can be given to reopen the pipes that are blocked in the brain. In some situations, this leads to immediate recovery from the stroke. The clot bursting drugs such as Alteplase, Streptokinase and Urokinase are not readily available. Where they are available, they are too expensive for the common man to buy, for the rich who have money to fly out of the country, Europe, America and India are too far to go for a drug that must be administered within three hours.’’
According to the statement, developing a local solution to cater for everyone favours both the rich and the poor. The statement called on stakeholders including individuals to support the cause of stroke care in Nigeria during the 2015 World Stroke Day scheduled for Oct. 29.

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