With all the upcoming excitement about Halloween, you may have overlooked the fact that yesterday was World Stroke Day.
This year, the global campaign to tackle stroke was highlighted with the slogan “Because I care…”.
The phrase showcases the role of caregivers in supporting people who have suffered a stroke and aims to correct misinformation about the disease, such as the misconception that stroke only happens later in life.
Every other second, stroke attacks a person, regardless of age or gender. Of the 15 million people who experience a stroke each year, six million do not survive. Worldwide about 30 million people have had a stroke and most have residual disabilities.
Overall approximately 55 000 more women have strokes than men each year, mainly because stroke occurs more frequently at older ages and women generally live longer than men. Of note, women are twice as likely to die from a stroke than breast cancer each year.
And recent data published in the Lancet, shows a striking 25% worldwide increase in the number of stroke cases in people aged between 20 and 64. This younger age group now accounts for a shocking 31% of strokes.
But, with greater awareness, these figures don’t have to continue their alarming trend. Stroke can be prevented, treated and managed in the long term. The campaign theme “Because I care” emphasizes these areas.
The slogan was chosen as it can easily be adapted to all cultures and in any setting. It attempts to address prevailing misinformation about the disease, e.g., stroke only happens later in life. The campaign also celebrates the important contributions of caregivers and the role they play as conduits between the stroke community and the general public in correcting misinformation.
Because I care…
- I want you to know the facts about stroke
- I will work to break down the myths surrounding stroke
- I want you to learn how to minimize your risk of stroke
- I want you to have access to the best possible treatment
- I will ensure that you receive quality treatment, care and support
- I will be with you every step of the way towards your full recovery
Research presented at the recent European Society of Cardiology [ESC] Congress showed that there are plenty of steps young obese women can take to reduce their risk of stroke. In young women without metabolic disorders such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar or abnormal glucose metabolism being overweight did not increase the chance of having a stroke compared to normal weight women without metabolic disorders. However, the risk of stroke increased by 3.5 times in women who were overweight and had metabolic disorders.
Study author, Dr Michelle Schmiegelow said: “Obesity puts young women at a major risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, which dramatically increases their likelihood of having a stroke. Young women who are overweight or obese probably have a window of opportunity to lose weight and keep a healthy lifestyle so that they reduce their risk of getting high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. In this way they can protect themselves from having a stroke or heart attack.”
Awareness of important risk factors, such as atrial fibrillation and hypertension, is crucial.
Professor Joep Perk, MD, a Swedish Cardiologist and spokesperson for the ESC says: “Women are at the same risk of stroke as men, and the level of risk is completely steered by the underlying risk factor pattern they have. The majority of people who have a stroke are disabled for the rest of their lives and may be paralyzed or lose their ability to speak. The devastating consequences of this disease for patients and their loved ones make prevention even more important.”
He adds: “Prevention for all cardiovascular disease follows the same pattern, be it stroke, heart attack, or peripheral arterial disease. Step one for women is absolutely to stop smoking – that beats everything. The second most important thing is to know your blood pressure to see if you are at risk. And finally, adopt healthy behaviors like eating heart healthy food and keeping the amount of salt you eat under control.”
The global campaign against stroke asks people to commit to six stroke challenges:
• Know your personal risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol
• Be physically active and exercise regularly
• Maintain a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetable and low in salt and keep blood pressure low
• Limit alcohol consumption
• Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now
• Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.
Check, check, check, check, check and check! I’m feeling up to the stroke challenge. Are you?