By anguillian November 20, 2017 09:21 Updated




Many residents of Anguilla continue to develop strokes despite there being effective treatment and preventative measures. Improved medical services and greater educational programmes are needed to decrease or prevent the complications of strokes in Anguilla.

What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. If you have symptoms suggestive of a stroke it is important to seek urgent medical attention so that treatment could be started immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.

Risk factors for getting a stroke
Anyone can get a stroke, but certain individuals are more at risk of getting strokes. Risk factors for strokes include the following:
• Being overweight or obese
• Physical inactivity
• Heavy or binge drinking
• Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines
Medical risk factors
• High blood pressure — the risk of stroke begins to increase at blood pressure readings higher than 140/90.
• Cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.
• High cholesterol.
• Diabetes.
• Obstructive sleep apnoea.
• Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm.
Other factors associated with a higher risk of stroke include:
• Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
• Being age 55 or older.
• Race — Individuals of African descent have a higher risk of stroke than do people of other races.
• Gender — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women.

Stroke prevention
Over the past 15 or 20 years less individuals have been dying from strokes but, in many countries including Anguilla, many individuals continue to die or suffer several serious complications from strokes.
There are many things you can do to prevent a stroke. Knowing your stroke risk factors, following your doctor’s recommendations, and adopting a healthy lifestyle are some steps you can take to prevent a stroke. The following are some prevention strategies for strokes:

• Controlling high blood pressure (hypertension). One of the most important things you can do to reduce your stroke risk is to keep your blood pressure under control.
Exercising, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting the amount of sodium you consume, and alcohol you drink, are all ways to control your high blood pressure.

• Lowering the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet. Eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats, may reduce the fatty deposits (plaques) in your arteries. If you cannot control your cholesterol through dietary changes alone, your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication.
• Stop smoking

• Controlling diabetes

• Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight contributes to other stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Weight loss of as little as 10 pounds may lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.

• Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. A diet containing five or more daily servings of fruits or vegetables may reduce your risk of stroke.

• Exercising regularly. Aerobic or “cardio” exercise reduces your risk of stroke in many ways. Stay physically active. Start gradually: work up to 30 minutes of activity — such as walking, dancing, jogging, swimming or bicycling — on most, if not all, days of the week.

• Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all. Heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk of high blood pressure, ischemic strokes and haemorrhagic strokes. However, drinking small to moderate amounts of alcohol, such as one drink a day, may help prevent ischemic stroke and decrease your blood’s clotting tendency. Alcohol may also interact with other drugs you are taking. Talk to your doctor about what is appropriate for you.

• Treating obstructive sleep apnoea, if present.

• Avoiding illicit drugs. Certain street drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, are established risk factors for a stroke. Cocaine reduces blood flow and can cause narrowing of arteries.

Preventive medications
If you have had an ischaemic stroke or TIA, your doctor may recommend medications to help reduce your risk of having another stroke. Talk to your doctor about these medications.

Recognize early signs and symptoms of a stroke
All individuals should learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke by memorizing FAST.
F- Face- Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A-Arm- Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S Speech- Ask the person to repeat a simple phase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
T- Time- If you observe any of these. Call 911 immediately.

Strokes continue to affect many residents in Anguilla. Knowing your risk factors for strokes, and doing something about them, can help reduce the morbidity and mortality of strokes. The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol. Your doctor will be able to provide further information on stroke prevention.

Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).

By anguillian November 20, 2017 09:21 Updated


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