By Dr. Ovundah Nyeche
Strokes occur due to problems with the blood supply to the brain: either the blood supply is blocked or a blood vessel within the brain ruptures, causing brain tissue to die. A stroke is a medical emergency, and treatment must be sought as quickly as possible.
It is important that a stroke is diagnosed quickly, not just to reduce the damage done to the brain, but because some of the treatment for stroke is time dependent.
There are two main kinds of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic, both caused by different factors and requiring different forms of treatment.
FAST is an acronym used as a mnemonic to help detect and enhance the responsiveness a stroke victim needs.
F: Facial weakness, let’s say someone you know wakes up or suddenly develops weakness of their face, or bending of their mouth to one side, inability to smile, it may be a pointer that all is not well. It’s a pointer that you need to act fast.
A: Arm Weakness, let’s say suddenly there is weakness in the arm or leg of one side of the body or someone you know, heaviness of one part of the body, funny sensation on one side of the body, or abrupt inability to move the arm on leg or sudden inability to write, hold biro or sign signatures,it is a pointer that you may need to act fast.
Also inability to walk suddenly or walking as though the person is staggering or having sudden reduced movement of one side of the body, or sudden inability to lift one arm or leg, you may need to rush to the hospital.
S: Speech difficulties, let’s say someone you were speaking with suddenly had slurred speech, the person can no longer speak clearly or pronounce clearly, you were speaking with someone and then you say Ndaa ( which in Ikwerre means how are you) and you expect to hear Orvuroma ( which means fine) and you hear meka ( which is thank you), you notice someone that could pronounce certain things is speaking as though a hot potato or food is in his or her mouth, someone can suddenly not swallow, cannot speak suddenly and is drooling saliva from the mouth, you may need to act fast.
T: Time; It is time to call for help and rush to the hospital, time is Brain. Time is of essence, every minute counts. In our setting 911 hardly works, but if you are confused and you stay in Rivers State you may need to know the numbers of the Rivers State Emergency Medical Services 112, 08033104730, 08079733265.
Time is brain, the brain clock ticking, act fast to limit the disabilities from stroke.
However, prevention is better than cure.
The best way to prevent a stroke is to address the underlying causes. This is best done by living healthily, which means:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Not smoking
- Avoiding alcohol or moderating consumption.
Eating a healthy diet means getting plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes; eating little or no red or processed meat; limiting intake of cholesterol and saturated fat (typically found in foods of animal origin); and minimizing salt intake so as to support healthy blood pressure.
Other measures taken to help reduce the risk of stroke include:
- Keeping blood pressure under control
- Managing diabetes well.
As well as these lifestyle changes, see your doctor to assess your risk for a stroke and reduce it by prescribing anti-stroke medications.
Dr. Nyeche Ovundah is a graduate of Human Anatomy and Medicine and Surgery from the University of Port-Harcourt. He has held several leadership positions and is presently the Executive Director of Onyx Health Foundation. He is passionate about educating and developing people using his stethoscope, writing and public speaking. He can be reached on Facebook as Ovundah Nyeche.