By Neelum T. Aggarwal MD, Arogya World Board Member
World Stroke Day, established in 2006 by the World Stroke Organization, aims at reducing the burden of stroke around the world by raising awareness about stroke risk and providing education regarding the warning signs of a stroke. Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Nearly 6 million die and another 5 million are left permanently disabled. Stroke is the second leading cause of disability after dementia—and may leave those who suffer a stroke with loss of vision, difficulty with speech, weakness or paralysis and dementia. Globally, stroke is the second leading cause of death (see infographic) above the age of 60 years, and the fifth leading cause of death in people ages 15 to 59 years old. The World Stroke Organization estimates that 1 in 6 people globally will experience a stroke during his/her lifetime.
Throughout the years, various educational programs and outreach efforts from the World Stroke Organization have encouraged people to take personal responsibility for stroke prevention, by (1) equipping themselves with stroke information, (2) correcting previous misunderstandings about stroke, and (3) sharing stroke information with family members who may be at risk for stroke. Campaigns in the past and present continue to encourage people to commit to six stroke challenges:
- Know your personal risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol.
- Be physically active and exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid cigarette smoke and/or stop smoking.
- Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.
The World Stroke Campaigns also have challenged governmental agencies and public health programs worldwide to launch events at the local level to engage communities in stroke awareness and prevention. Recent data suggests that worldwide the incidence of stroke is decreasing in certain regions of the world including the Western hemisphere, but is increasing at alarming rates in low and middle income countries, including India. (Source: Global and regional burden of stroke during 1990–2010: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010)
The disease burden of stroke in India is high, with more than 1.5 million stroke cases per year. The costs involved in caring for stroke-related disabilities such as physical dependence, dementia, and depression—in addition to the cost of stroke care itself—are enormous and have adverse social implications. The stroke mortality rate in India is 22 times that of malaria and 1.4 times of tuberculosis. However, whereas there are established national preventive programs meant for eradicating malaria and tuberculosis, the national effort to “fight stroke” has only recently begun. The Indian Stroke Association announced its initiative of establishing endorsed Stroke Units across India to provide timely treatment for acute stroke and care for stroke patients. This program, in addition to prevention programs aimed at reducing the incidence and burden of noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, will be instrumental in reducing the burden of stroke in India.