The recent report that Nigeria records 160,000 cases of stroke annually is, indeed, worrisome. It underscores the seriousness of the problem of hypertension and the endemic nature of the non-communicable disease. The nation’s health authorities should see the report as a clarion call to rise to the challenge posed by this cardiovascular disease that has been widely dubbed a silent killer. They must quickly to reverse the damning statistics on stroke in the country.
According to the United Kingdom-based cardiovascular expert, Tony Rudd, who spoke at a lecture organised by Stephen James Stroke Centre of Excellence in Abuja, 168 people die of stroke daily in Nigeria while 18 stroke cases are recorded every hour. The consequence of this, Rudd explained, is that seven people die of stroke in Nigeria every hour. The medic also warned that the trend might increase if urgent actions are not taken by both the government and individuals to stem the tide.
Although stroke cases are increasing globally, incidence of the disease in Nigeria is more pathetic as experts say it is largely caused by preventable circumstances like ignorance, poor diet and lifestyle, undetected and poorly managed hypertension, diabetes and lack of proper health care facilities.
They averred that 80 percent of the 160,000 cases of stroke that occur in the country yearly can be prevented if there are well-equipped hospitals and Nigerians living with high blood pressure and diabetes manage the diseases properly.
Since stroke can strike without warning, the best way to reduce its incidence is for people to undergo routine medical checks. The import of routine medical checks can never be over-emphasised. Everyone, especially those from the age of 40 upwards, should go for medical checks at least once in a year.
According to medical experts, stroke, sometimes referred to as cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or brain attack, is the loss of brain function due to a disturbance of blood supply to the brain. Risk factors for stroke include old age, high blood pressure, previous stroke or transient ischemic attack, diabetes high cholesterol, tobacco smoking and atrial fibrillation. The three main kinds of stroke are ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes and transient ischemic attacks. Ischemic strokes are caused by a narrowing or blocking of arteries to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by blood vessels in and around the brain bursting or leaking.
Symptoms of stroke include face dropping, arm weakness and speech difficulty. Others include sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, sudden confusion or trouble understanding, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination and sudden severe headache with no known cause. Experts also point out that high blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor for stroke.
Available statistics show that stroke was the second most frequent cause of death worldwide in 2011, accounting for 6.2 million deaths. Approximately 17 million people had stroke in 2010 and 33 million people that had previously had stroke were still alive. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of strokes decreased by 10 percent in the developed world and increased by 10 percent in the developing world. Overall, two thirds of strokes occurred in those over 65 years old.
Now that stroke cases are on the increase in the country, the nation’s public health educators should enlighten the general public on the causes of the disease, symptoms and preventive measures. Government at all levels should do something to halt the rising cases of stroke. They should not allow the disease to take a greater toll on the population before taking necessary action to curb it.
There should be increased access to health facilities where stroke cases can be treated in all the local government areas in the country. The relevant authorities should also ensure that drugs for the management of the condition are available in all government hospitals.