World Stroke Day occurs on 29 October 2020, and it is observed to underscore the serious nature and high rates of stroke. It is also there to raise awareness of the prevention and treatment of the condition and enable better care for survivors. On this day organisations around the world facilitate events that emphasise education, testing, and initiatives to improve the damaging effect of strokes worldwide. The annual event was first introduced in 2006 by the World Stroke Organization (WSO), and strokes were declared a public health emergency in 2010. The WSO now has an ongoing campaign that serves as a year-round interface for advocacy, policy, and outreach to support strides and continue the progress made on World Stroke Day.1
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a condition where the blood supply to the brain gets disrupted. It results in oxygen starvation, brain damage, and loss of function. It is most frequently caused by a clot in an artery or haemorrhage. That is, when a burst vessel causes blood to leak into the brain. A stroke can cause permanent damage, including partial paralysis, impairment in speech, comprehension, and memory. The severity of a stroke is determined by the extent and location of the damage. It can range from minimal to disastrous.2
Globally 1 in 4 adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. However, any person of any age can have a stroke. There is a disproportionate number of strokes in resource-poor countries, with the overall stroke incidence rates in low- to middle-income countries exceeding that of incidence rates seen in high-income countries by 20% during 2000-2008. Today, two out of every three people who suffer from a stroke live in low- and middle-income countries.2
90% of strokes can be prevented by addressing the following ten risks:
- Hypertension or high blood pressure—More than half of all strokes are associated with hypertension or high blood pressure.
- Exercise—Just 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can reduce your risk of stroke by 25%.
- Diet—The best diet for stroke prevention is a diet that is mostly plant-based with small amounts of meat and fish. This diet has been described as a ’Mediterranean Diet’.
- Weight—Being categorised as overweight increases your risk of stroke by 22%, and if you are obese, that risk increases by 64%. This is because carrying too much weight increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, contributing to higher stroke risk.
- Atrial Fibrillation (AF, or AFib)— AF is a condition where the heartbeat is irregular and often very fast. It is very important to know about atrial fibrillation because left untreated, AF is a major risk factor for stroke.
- Smoking—Someone who smokes 20 cigarettes a day is six times more likely to have a stroke than a non-smoker. If you are a smoker, quitting will reduce your risk of stroke and a range of other diseases.
- Alcohol—Drinking too much alcohol, either regularly or ‘one-off’ overconsumption, can increase your risk of stroke. Globally excessive alcohol consumption is linked to over 1 million strokes each year.
- Cholesterol—Cholesterol is a fatty substance that circulates in your blood. Cholesterol is contained in the food that we eat—mostly saturated fats.
- Diabetes—1 in 5 people who have a stroke are diabetic, and people with diabetes have poorer outcomes from stroke compared with the rest of the population.
- Depression and stress—Around 1 in 6 strokes are linked to mental health. Depression and stress are linked to almost two times greater risk of stroke and TIA (mini-strokes).
For more information on strokes and to join the movement, go to https://www.world-stroke.org/world-stroke-day-campaign.