Leading neurologists of the country have urged the federal and provincial governments to immediately launch “stroke prevention programmes” on the pattern of TB, malaria, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS programmes, saying that this disease is killing around 400 people daily in Pakistan and making hundreds of others permanently disabled in the country.
Every day, around 1,000 people have major and minor strokes in Pakistan, of whom 400 die on the same day while around 200 or 250 become disabled for life, they said while addressing a news conference in connection with World Stroke Day 2020 at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Tuesday.
The news conference was organised by the Pakistan Stroke Society (PSS) in collaboration with the Neurology Awareness and Research Foundation (NARF), the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association and local pharmaceutical firm PharmEvo to mark World Stroke Day, which is observed every year on October 29. It was addressed by President NARF Prof Dr. Muhammad Wasey, Vice President PSS Dr Abdul Malik, General Secretary PSS Dr Ravi Shankar and Pakistan Society of Neuroly (PSN) member Dr Bashir Soomro.
Eminent neurologists said that in addition to conventional risk factors of the stroke, Covid-19 had emerged as another serious risk factor for stroke and it had increased the ratio of stroke to 100 per cent all over the world. They added that people having diabetes, hypertension and using tobacco were more at the risk of having strokes when they contracted the coronavirus infection.
“In addition to launching national and provincial stroke prevention programmes, there is an urgent need to have a national stroke treatment centre and research institute in Karachi like the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD). Both the stroke and cardiovascular diseases have some risked factors, and like heart attacks, brain attacks are also on the rise and killing hundreds of people on a daily basis,” said Prof Dr Muhammad Wasey, an eminent neurologist and researcher.
In 2005, he noted, hardly 250 out of one hundred thousand people were having strokes in Pakistan, but a recent study conducted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had revealed that 1,200 out of 100,000 people were having stroke in Pakistan, which indicated a five-time increase in the incidence of stroke in the country.
Dr Wasey maintained that stroke is a preventable disease where people can modify their risk factors by living a healthy life. He said they were striving to prevent schoolchildren and college students from having strokes as they were more prone to this disease due to being obese and overweight, becoming diabetics and hypertensive because of sedentary lifestyle and consuming junk food. “It is the right time that we give some importance to stroke prevention and launch programmes to prevent our younger generation from having strokes. We are more worried about diseases that kill 10-12 people in a day, but we are ignoring this monster which is killing and disabling hundreds of people in a single day.”
PSS General Secretary and renowned neurologist Dr Ravi Shankar said stroke is an emergency and life of a person can be saved and a person can be protected from disability if he or she is taken to a stroke unit within three to four hours after having symptoms of stroke. “Knowing the symptoms of stroke is very important.”
“If a person is having difficulty in speaking, his one side is paralyzed and difficulty in walking and confusion, these are signs and symptoms of having stroke and such patients should immediately be shifted to stroke units”, Dr Ravi Shankar said, adding that there should be stroke units at all tertiary-care hospitals and district-level health facilities in the country.
Dr Abdul Malik said they were holding awareness and training activities in connection with World Stroke Day 2020, and that the Pakistan Stroke Society and other associations of neurologists were ready to support the government in the prevention of stroke and other neurological diseases. “We can help governments in establishing stroke units at each government hospital by training doctors and paramedics while we can also launch programmes to create awareness about prevention from stroke.”