There is an old idiom which says ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’.  Well that’s not strictly true, particularly when it comes to your health and wellbeing.  Education and awareness are a vital starting point in being mindful of the risks and warning signs, and what healthy habits to introduce into your daily routine.

Everyone talks about it; the pace of life nowadays, and the expectations and stressors put upon us day in and day out.  We may not always notice it, but these expectations and stressors take their toll.   For many of us, we forget to take time out to care for our health and our wellbeing, or we don’t know enough about how to look after ourselves.

UniTeam’s history has been one of medical education, and as such, we wish to coach and spread awareness about the risks associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, provide information regarding diseases commonly associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, and recommend actions and adjustments you can make to improve your health.

This blog addresses the topic of stroke.  Stroke is one of the most prominent non-communicable diseases and falls under the category of non-communicable cardiovascular disease.

What is Stroke?

Stroke is a broad term used to describe a disease that affects the blood vessels of the brain.  There are two main types of stroke; Ischemic and Hemorrhagic.   Ischemic strokes occur when blood flow to an area of the brain is blocked by a blood clot.  This results in brain cells being deprived of oxygen and subsequently, they begin to die.  Depending on where in the brain the stroke occurred will determine the effects on the patient, and their likelihood of survival.  Conditions range from short term, mild muscle weakness through to permanent paralysis or death. In instances of survival, stroke can lead to ongoing complications such as blood clots in the legs/lungs, seizures, increased pressure and swelling in the brain, and recurrent stroke amongst other conditions.   Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing bleeding on the brain. The bleeding causes pressure and swelling of the brain, damaging cells and tissue.  While the least common, Hemorrhagic stroke often results in death.

What are the signs of stroke?

UniTeam Medical teaches the F.A.S.T. mnemonic, which is endorsed by the American Heart Association(AHA) and is an easy way to remember the things to look for if you suspect yourself or your friend or family member of suffering a stroke.

F.A.S.T. is:

Facial Droop – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms.  Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue, and clouds are white.”   Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 9-9-9 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-9-9 and get the person to the hospital immediately! Remember to check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Every minute counts and the first question you will be asked once rescuers arrive is, what time did the symptoms start?  Time plays a major role in determining treatment and its outcome.

How can you prevent stroke?

There are a number of contributing factors to stroke, and like with many non-communicable diseases, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, lowering your blood pressure and doing regular exercise can do wonders!   It is also important to see your doctor for annual checkups, and where necessary and prescribed, taking medication to control blood pressure, blood cholesterol and heart problems such as atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat).  By making these lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of stroke.