Every hour, 10 people in South Africa suffer a stroke, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa. In support of World Stroke Day, commemorated on 29 October, Netcare urges members of the public to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of stroke so that they can act fast in such an eventuality.
“The golden rule when a person has a stroke is for them to get medical attention as soon as possible,” explains Dr Anchen Laubscher, medical director of Netcare Hospitals.
“Often it may not be immediately noticeable that a person is having a stroke, and the patient themselves may have difficulty articulating what they are experiencing. This is why it is vital to increase public awareness about the symptoms associated with stroke, and emphasise the importance of getting the patient to a hospital emergency department as quickly as possible for treatment.”
A stroke occurs when the supply of oxygenated blood to part of the brain is disrupted either due to a burst blood vessel or a blood clot. Strokes may range in severity from so-called ‘mini strokes’, which may have only temporary effects, to life-changing disability or even sudden death.
“Every stroke should be treated as a medical emergency, even ‘mini strokes’, also known as transient ischemic attacks, as these can signal that the individual could be at risk of a more serious stroke in the future.”
Dr Laubscher notes that while stroke symptoms can differ greatly depending on which part of the brain has been affected, however, there are a number of common signs of stroke that are generally recognisable.
“When it comes to a possible case of stroke, think ‘FAST’. The acronym FAST can help you to remember what symptoms to look for and what to do in the event of a stroke,” she says.
- F for ‘Face drooping’ – facial muscles are weak, often causing one side of the face to droop
- A for ‘Arm or leg weakness’ – the person may feel weak in one or both of their arms or legs, and may feel numb on one side of their body. They may also have poor coordination with difficulty walking or standing up and may appear drunk.
- S for ‘Speech difficulty’ – the person may slur words, use words incorrectly or not be able to speak
- T for ‘Time to call emergency medical services’, such as Netcare 911 on 082 911
“A person who is having a stroke may also experience a sudden severe headache, and sudden loss of vision or blindness in one or both eyes,” Dr Laubscher adds.
“While anyone can suffer a stroke, there are a number of lifestyle factors that can help to reduce the risk and we encourage the public to discuss their individual stroke risk with a doctor. Factors that may increase one’s risk of stroke include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, insufficient exercise and an unhealthy diet,” she warns.
Strengthening stroke management expertise
Dr Biancha Mentoor, clinical improvement manager in Netcare’s clinical department, says that the Group has been focusing on strengthening stroke management expertise in its hospitals, through collaboration with the Angels Initiative, an international drive to promote excellence in the management of stroke patients.
“At this stage the training is mainly for staff working in emergency departments at Netcare hospitals, as patients who have suffered a stroke will usually present at an emergency department. It is therefore extremely important that the staff detect possible signs of stroke so that the appropriate care can be initiated as soon as possible,” Dr Mentoor explains.
“Unit managers, nurses and other staff who may be involved in caring for stroke patients, for example in intensive care units and medical wards, will also benefit from training provided through the Angels Initiative.”
Dr Mentoor says that Netcare is furthermore partnering with the South African Stroke Society (SASS) to enhance all aspects of care for stroke patients at its facilities.
“It has been demonstrated that stroke patients who receive medical care that is aligned to the best practice and relevant protocols tend to have better outcomes, ranging from longer life expectancy, shorter rehabilitation time and better functionality. We are grateful to SASS and the Angels Initiative for their guidance, and are committed to continue developing our skills to offer stroke patients world class care,” Dr Laubscher concluded.
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Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, and Pieter Rossouw
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