Hitherto, the impression many people in our part of the world had about stroke was that it affected old people and/or the rich. But the number and categories of people who suffer from stroke these days do not confirm the age-old belief of the disease exclusively affecting the aged or the wealthy.
Relatedly, medical science confirms that the disease can attack anyone at any time and that it occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off.
When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die.
When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as memory and muscle control, are lost.
Depending on where the stroke occurs in the brain and the extent of brain damage, the affected person may only have minor problems, such as temporary weakness in an arm or leg, permanent paralysis or the loss of the ability to speak.
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While some people recover completely from strokes, available data show that more than two-thirds of survivors will have some type of disability.
The social and economic problems that the disease presents globally are dire.
But in spite of the danger the disease presents, only few people know its causes.
Strangely, those who have read about it or know the causes still live as if there is nothing at stake.
The figures that were made available yesterday by the Deputy Programme Manager of the Non-Communicable Diseases Control Programme of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Afua Commey, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, are threatening, especially when viewed against the backdrop that more young people are getting the disease.
The Daily Graphic cannot belabour the fact that the development of the country rests on the health of its population, for which reason there should be sustained education to drum home the causes of the disease, which include lifestyle choices such as excessive intake of alcohol, smoking and consumption of unhealthy food.
We are also informed that the disease is brought about by overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, use of illicit drugs, blood pressure readings higher than 120/80 millimeters of mercury and diseases such as diabetes. Even obstructive sleep has been identified as a cause.
The Daily Graphic urges all to play their part to deal with this emerging threatening disease by ensuring that we eat healthily and embark on other activities that will control hypertension, which has been identified as a precursor to the disease.
We should endeavour to lower the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in our diet, which will reduce fats and plaque in our arteries.
We also advise people, especially young persons, to quit tobacco use, maintain a healthy weight, eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and, if we should drink at all, do so in moderation.
We counsel that whenever stroke is suspected, the sufferer should be rushed to hospital immediately, as the chances of a sufferer’s recovery depends on his/her time of receiving medical attention.
But even as we make these recommendations, we are worried by the revelation that inadequate facilities and stroke-friendly personnel to take care of stroke patients account for half of the patients dying in Ghana.
In view of this, we implore the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service to train more personnel and provide adequate facilities to deal with this growing threat to the health of the country.
We cannot substitute our human resource for anything. Let us, therefore, act swiftly.