Friday, June 4, 2010

Young and old alike: Strokes can affect anyone

This is one more illness that can strike and attack anybody and everybody, whether young or old. So take the precaution.

Read on...

Strokes can affect anyone
By Eveline Gan, TODAY

SINGAPORE : With a brilliant career as a business development manager and youth on her side, Phyllis Soh had everything going for her - until a sudden stroke eight years ago left her near death, bedridden and unable to speak for months.

She was only 29 - an age many thought was far too young for a stroke.

Phyllis cannot remember what happened that day, except that the stroke was "a sudden attack". Prior to the attack, the seemingly healthy university graduate "did not suffer from any chronic illnesses".

One of the common misconceptions about stroke is that it affects only old people. In fact, strokes can affect people from all age groups, said Dr Vijay Kumar Sharma, consultant neurologist of the department of medicine at National University Hospital.

Stronger After Stroke: Your Roadmap to RecoveryThe risk of stroke increases tremendously after 50, but this life-threatening condition can also happen to younger people, as Phyllis' case has shown.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted due to a blocked or ruptured artery.

"With the lack of oxygen and nutrients, affected areas of the brain die," explained Dr Lee Kim En, education director and head and senior consultant of the department of neurology at National Neuroscience Institute.

He estimated that about 5 per cent of young stroke victims are under 45.

Over at the National University Hospital, approximately 5 to 6 per cent of stroke patients are under 45. Out of this group, 1 per cent is under 30.

Devastating effects

Living With Stroke: A Guide for FamiliesThe fourth most common cause of death and a major cause of disability in Singapore, stroke accounts for about 10,000 hospital admissions here each year. About one-fifth of stroke cases are fatal, said Dr Lee.

Even if the patient survives, the aftermath could be devastating.

Eight years down the road, Phyllis - who is now able to walk a little with some help and speak, albeit haltingly - is still feeling the effects of the stroke that robbed her of her youth.

She said: "It has affected my life more than I can begin to describe. Imagine being reliant on someone else for everything - from eating and drinking to walking and talking. I can't even do simple things like cut my own nails, dig my ears - my hands tremble too much - or go to the hairdresser to cut my hair."

Emotionally, Phyllis admitted that she is "constantly depressed". She has written a book, I Think, Therefore I Am, which was published two years ago, but has not held a job since the stroke. "Who would employ me?"

What causes stroke?

Stroke For DummiesIn a younger person, a stroke may occur when there is an abnormality in the blood vessels, as suspected in Phyllis' case.

"The person may be born with blood vessels that loop together abnormally or are too weak to withstand aggravating pressure for too long," explained Dr Lee.

A stroke can also be caused by an accident or even sudden neck movements, although Dr Sharma added that these causes are not common.

He explained: "Arteries supplying blood to the brain travel through the neck. The walls of the carotid and vertebral arteries may get injured due to neck injuries or sudden neck movements. This can happen even with trivial trauma."

Prevention is better than cure

Some causes of stroke, like the ones mentioned above, cannot be helped. But many factors are preventable.

Conquering Stroke: How I Fought My Way Back and How You Can Too"If you put aside age as a factor, I would say that high blood pressure and smoking are one of the highest risk factors. You see young people lighting up every day. It's like a time bomb," said Dr Lee.

Other factors include hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and a sedentary or stressful lifestyle.

But Dr Lee cautioned against being "overly paranoid". Although strokes can happen to anyone of any age, they "can be prevented by modification of risk factors", he added.

Warning signs

A quick diagnosis can be critical to helping a stroke victim.

Early warning signs of stroke are always sudden in onset. They include incoordination of one side of the body, numbness, sudden slurring of speech, sudden clumsiness, facial droop and double vision or loss of vision.

Caplan's Stroke: A Clinical ApproachOccasionally, a mini stroke, called a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), can occur before a full-blown one. The symptoms last for only a few minutes and resolve within 24 hours.

"The risk of a subsequent stroke after TIA is about 10 per cent, being highest after the first few days," said Dr Sharma.

Such warning signs should never be ignored. See a doctor immediately. - TODAY/ra

From; source article is below:
Strokes can affect anyone